In salute of its admired efforts to bring healthy, affordable food to a growing number of communities, as well as its abilities to propagate its brand with a well-oiled, high-performing mix of products, people, services, in-store experience and e-commerce, Sprouts Farmers Market has been named as WGB's 2018 Grocery Business of the Year.
A true pacesetter and industry achiever on multiple fronts, the Phoenix-based retailer’s unwavering dedication to wellness and value provides it with a distinct edge as part of its overarching “healthy living for less” mantra, which manifests in its welcoming stores, knowledgeable team members and laser-sharp merchandising. Specializing in fresh, natural and organic products at prices that appeal to everyday grocery shoppers, Sprouts offers a complete shopping experience in its average 30,000-square-foot stores, where fresh produce serves as the epicenter.
With nearly 300 locations in 15 states and more than 27,000 team members, Sprouts’ demonstrated investments in technology, infrastructure and e-commerce are fitting with its strong financial performance, on-point execution, trusted relationships with vendors and suppliers, commendable community and charitable involvement, and exceptional environmental stewardship.
Renowned for its wide selection of products in unique categories—such as plant-based and gluten-free, vitamins and supplements that exceed 7,500 products, an expansive selection of purely natural and cruelty-free beauty and body care products, a bodacious bulk foods department, and a breadth of natural and organic products—Sprouts has simultaneously earned a stellar reputation for value. In fact, at any given time, roughly one-third of the store is on promotion.
To be sure, Sprouts Farmers Market has perfected a formula that’s made it difficult for its conventional grocery counterparts to replicate.
Intent on becoming the preferred food retailer in the markets it serves, Sprouts’ pragmatic philosophy is predicated on a singular goal. “We’ve always believed that healthy food should be available to everyone,” says CEO Amin Maredia. “We’re a healthy grocery store that appeals to mainstream consumers interested in fresh, natural and organic products at affordable prices.”
Guided by a “passion statement”—as opposed to a mere mission—Maredia effuses confidence when evangelizing the company’s creed. “We believe healthy living is a journey and every meal is a choice. We love to inspire, educate and empower every person to eat healthier and live a better life,” he says, speaking on behalf of the company’s 27,000-plus “knowledgeable team members, who bring this belief to life, and who are eager to support customers on their journey to better health.”
As its national expansion progresses, Sprouts continues to tinker with its formula, most recently dispersing extra firepower to its fresh, convenient, on-the-go options hailing from its high-volume Market Corner delis and adjacent prepared foods departments. Other recent additions such as salad bars, freshly squeezed juice, olive bars, fresh sushi and soup bars in many of its stores have also paid off handsomely for the fast-growing retailer—as has an expanded selection of fresh prepared foods from its full-service deli case. Several new options have also been added in refrigerated areas, which serve up ready-to-eat, ready-to-heat and ready-to-cook meals.
“These deli enhancements are in close to half of our stores today and are truly changing the way our guests shop at Sprouts—particularly during the noon and 5 p.m. hours,” says Maredia, noting that they’re embedded in most of its new stores and are “performing extremely well.”
To further enrich its fresh cred, Sprouts continues to augment its meat departments, which feature in-house butchers in every store who are trained to fresh-cut meat and assist guests with product selection, seasoning, cooking tips and custom cuts. “Engaging our guests in service-heavy departments like The Butcher Shop not only builds trust with transitional shoppers, but also encourages repeat visits,” says Maredia. To support continued growth, the chain has also upped investments in team member training. “We’re known for knowledgeable and friendly service and are always looking to raise the bar,” he says, pointing to its intensive 10-week meat apprentice program as an example.
As workforce competition continues to heighten, Sprouts is prioritizing leadership development, pay and benefits alongside fostering a culture of engagement. The retailer also plans to invest approximately one-third of the savings from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to further enhance those efforts while increasing pay and improving benefits, including healthcare and expanded maternity leave.
Behind the scenes, the company is investing in technology with several projects aimed at driving sales and margin effectiveness, as well as improving demand forecasting and data analytics to enhance in-stocks, reduce shrink and optimize labor.
The full Grocery Business of the Year profile story can be found here.
Photo by Steve Craft