Sprouts Continues Rapid Expansion

Sprouts Farmers Market here celebrated a new milestone last week, opening its 50th location on June 2 in Sunnyvale, Calif. This opening marks the eighth store this year for the natural-food retailer, which launched in 2002. Two more stores are planned for northern California before the end of the year. All of this activity follows on the heels of 11 openings last year when many businesses

PHOENIX — Sprouts Farmers Market here celebrated a new milestone last week, opening its 50th location on June 2 in Sunnyvale, Calif.

This opening marks the eighth store this year for the natural-food retailer, which launched in 2002. Two more stores are planned for northern California before the end of the year. All of this activity follows on the heels of 11 openings last year when many businesses were struggling through the worst of the recession. And, more are coming next year.

The chain's owners take to heart the meaning of being in the right place at the right time.

“With all the emphasis on health care and people taking more responsibility for their own health, this is good for us. We had a great first quarter,” Doug Sanders, president and chief operating officer of the 50-unit, family owned chain, told SN.

He pointed out that health and wellness trends are becoming more mainstream, and natural food is more accepted as people try to eat healthier.

Sanders said the company wants to transition consumers into a healthier way of life, and part of that endeavor is keeping price points down.

“In these trying times, we'll go into an area and offer people something they maybe didn't have access to before — natural food at a value price.”

Certainly, the chain's mission statement, “Helping America Eat Healthier, Live Longer and Spend Less,” dovetails with what consumers are looking for today.

Upon entering a Sprouts unit, what shoppers see first is colorful, bulk produce smack in the middle of the store, stretching from left to right.

“There are no actual aisles. [The layout] creates easy shopping for our customers,” Sanders said.

Asked about the chain's quick expansion, he said, “So far, so good. We've had a lot of success. We have the capital backing to do it, and we're doing OK — even last year — so we've just kept going.”

When the company launched its first Sprouts Farmers Market in 2002 in Chandler, Ariz., the plan was simply “to maintain steady growth over the next 10 years.” Nobody was thinking at that time that there'd be 50 stores opened in eight years, Sanders said.

“We started out in Arizona, then went into Texas in 2005, Colorado in 2008. This makes our 13th store in California. Sunnyvale will be our first in northern California.”

Sanders attributes the chain's steady success to being small and privately owned, and to listening to customers.

“We can react quickly to what they want, and we do. We have a tab on our website for customer suggestions and we pay attention to them, even down to seasonings they like or don't like. We watch their blogs, too.”

Sanders described Sprouts' evolution.

“Actually, we used to be more produce-centric, but we've expanded to full line, being conscious of changes in the wants and needs of our customers.”

The chain even has a fully developed prepared-food program to which it branded “Sprouts Country Kitchen” earlier this year. And, like other supermarkets recently, Sprouts offers several different “meal deals,” such as a meal for four for under $10.

“We've gotten better every year [at giving customers what they want], and we've stayed price-point sensitive.”