Fast-growing Sprouts takes root in Grand Junction

A Sprouts Farmers Market is set to open Jan. 16 in the Rimrock Crossing shopping center in Grand Junction. The 27,000 square-foot store will sell fresh produce, meats and seafood as well as natural foods and vitamins. About 85 people will work there. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Doug Sanders oversees one of the fastest-growing retailers in the United States as president and chief executive officer of Sprouts Farmers Market.

Since its start in 2002, the chain of natural foods grocery stores has lengthened through mergers and new construction to nearly 150 locations in eight states. Add Grand Junction to the list with the opening of a Sprouts Farmers Market in the Rimrock Crossing Center scheduled for Jan. 16.

“It’s a good time for our company. It’s a good time to expand,” Sanders said in a telephone interview with the Business Times from the company’s corporate offices in Phoenix.

While growing consumer demand for fresh produce and natural foods as part of a healthier lifestyle has bolstered business, so has a concerted effort to offer lower prices, he said.

In Grand Junction, Sprouts Farmers Market will open in a newly constructed, 27,000 square-foot building. A staff of 85 will work there.

The store will be the first for Sprouts on the Western Slope, but one three in Colorado scheduled to open this year that initially were planned as new locations for Sunflower Farmers Market. Sprouts followed through with construction following a merger with Sunflower that was completed in May. Counting the new stores, Sprouts will operate 24 locations in Colorado by the end of the year.

Kim Rockley, a spokeswoman for Sprouts Farmers Market, said the stores offer a different shopping experience. “We are sort of a hybrid between a natural foods store, a farmer’s market and a conventional supermarket and as such provide a low-pressure, easy to shop, highly affordable steppingstone to better eating.”

In addition to fresh produce, Rockley said Sprouts sells cheeses, meats and seafood; a wide variety of natural foods; and vitamins, supplements and body care products. That’s not to mention baby food, bulk foods and pet food.

Sanders said Sprouts was “built to grow” from the outset. Within its first eight years, the operation had expanded to 56 locations. A merger with Henry’s Farmers Markets in 2011 nearly doubled the number of locations. The merger with Sunflower Farmers Markets added another 35 locations.

Doug Sanders

Still another 20 locations are scheduled to open in 2013, followed by 22 in 2014, Sanders said. “The growth has been extremely fast.”

Increasing demand for organic and natural foods has helped drive that growth, Sanders said. “It’s a growing trend that spans almost every demographic.”

That’s been especially true in Colorado, where residents tend to live healthier lifestyles, he said. “We’ve done very well in the Colorado market.”

With increased demand has come increased competition, though. And Sprouts has strived to differentiate its stores through lower pricing, Sanders said. The company operates its own sourcing and distribution channels to obtain the best produce and other products at the lowest prices, he said.

Sprouts often purchases produce from growers near stores, so it’s possible the company will purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from the Grand Valley when they’re in season, he added.