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Sprouts Farmers Market debuts new look, part of 20-store expansion

Sprouts Farmers Market debuts new look, part of 20-store expansion


How does a grocery store stand out in a California landscape crowded with supermarkets?

If you’re Sprouts Farmers Market, you downsize.

While the chain is actually growing across the U.S., the format inside and out is shrinking. Sprouts is building 20 stores this year, all of which will have a smaller footprint than most of its existing stores. The new format will help reduce building costs by 20%, CEO Jack Sinclair said in a first-quarter earnings call.

A recent store makeover in Orange County is one of two the company has been working on this summer. Another store near its headquarters in Arizona also got refreshed. If the new template goes well with shoppers, the chain will roll it out nationwide as it expands into 2022, its 20th year of operation.

So, is big change afoot? While some updates are noticeably bolder, more subtle changes might be overlooked but appreciated by new shoppers.

Display shelves got shorter, creating an open view across much of the store. Frozen goods were expanded from just wall-mounted freezers to bins placed in wider aisles. Colorful signage harkens back to the company’s roots as a family produce stand.

The expanded frozen food department at Sprouts Farmers Market in The Market Place in Tustin on Friday, July 16, 2021. The redesigned store also updated the signage and decor among other changes. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG) 

In a nod to the paleo and keto diet trends, the meat department switched places with the bakery, getting prime, front-of-store real estate. Just beyond refrigerated racks stocked with grass-fed beef, pork and chicken, a large selection of plant-based “meat alternatives” is displayed in a hip-high, reach-in “bunker” where the salad bar once stood.

The salad and olive bars are gone, relics of pre-pandemic days when open trays of food were more eagerly scooped up by shoppers. The self-serve bar was already fading in popularity before COVID-19 became a household name, said regional director David Looney. The pandemic just boosted its exit at warp speed.

What did remain are the self-serve bulk bins, beloved by many home cooks. Sprouts, like other grocers, had to empty the array of dry goods during the pandemic. As vaccinations rose and coronavirus cases ebbed, the tubs of grains, nuts and treats were redeployed. Now, with cases of variant coronavirus mounting, Looney is hopeful the bins remain open but “who knows,” he pondered during a recent tour of the Tustin Market Place redesign.

We asked David McGlinchey, chief format officer for Sprouts, to share more of the thinking behind the store changes. His answers have been edited for length.

A section of shelves with new items displayed at Sprouts Farmers Market in The Market Place in Tustin on Friday, July 16, 2021. The redesigned store updated the signage and decor among other changes. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG) 

Q: Tell us more about what’s new.

A: Our “innovation center” will showcase new-to-market items, including many that will be exclusive to Sprouts. We’re also expanding the frozen department to include 130 more products that make healthy eating easy, including plant-based meals and meat alternatives. With the growing interest in plant-based foods, we also have an expanded refrigerated section that highlights plant-based products.

Q: Did customer habits prompt the format changes? 

A: Overall, today’s shoppers are looking for convenience and products that cater to their lifestyles such as keto, plant-based, paleo and organic. The changes in store make it easier for shoppers to find these products … while also offering a treasure hunt feel where they can discover new products.

Q: With a big shift in homeowners/renters from coastal California to inland counties, will the company eye prospects to the east?

A: California is a major market for Sprouts, and Southern California is special to us as that’s where our company first started as a family produce stand early on. Later this year, we’ll add stores in Menifee and Garden Grove, and there’s room for Sprouts to grow even more across the entire state. So we’re always keeping an eye out for new sites.

The vitamins and supplements department at Sprouts Farmers Market in The Market Place in Tustin on Friday, July 16, 2021. The redesigned store updated the signage and decor among other changes. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG) 

Q: On a pandemic note, were there items in particular that Sprouts found were highly in demand?

A: Shoppers were increasingly choosing immune-boosting vitamins and supplements, in addition to foods with healthier attributes such as grass-fed and organic during the pandemic.

Q: Tell us how the pandemic might have affected supplies. As a market known for its organic and fresh goods, did your buyers see any big shift in Sprouts’ supply chain?

A: Our store and distribution center teams have been working closely with supply chain partners to ensure regular deliveries and keep stores stocked. Additionally, with our owned fresh produce distribution, we were able to ensure produce was well-stocked across all stores.

  • The produce department at Sprouts Farmers Market in The Market Place in Tustin on Friday, July 16, 2021. The redesigned store updated the signage and decor among other changes. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Bulk food bins at Sprouts Farmers Market in The Market Place in Tustin on Friday, July 16, 2021. The redesigned store updated the signage and decor among other changes. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A section of shelves with new items displayed at Sprouts Farmers Market in The Market Place in Tustin on Friday, July 16, 2021. The redesigned store updated the signage and decor among other changes. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A section of shelves with new items displayed at Sprouts Farmers Market in The Market Place in Tustin on Friday, July 16, 2021. The redesigned store updated the signage and decor among other changes. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • The vitamins and supplements department at Sprouts Farmers Market in The Market Place in Tustin on Friday, July 16, 2021. The redesigned store updated the signage and decor among other changes. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • David Looney, regional director at Sprouts Farmers Market, talks about the changes at the store in The Market Place in Tustin on Friday, July 16, 2021. The redesigned store updated the signage and decor among other changes. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • David Looney, regional director at Sprouts Farmers Market, talks about the changes at the store in The Market Place in Tustin on Friday, July 16, 2021. The redesigned store updated the signage and decor among other changes. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Bulk food bins at Sprouts Farmers Market in The Market Place in Tustin on Friday, July 16, 2021. The redesigned store updated the signage and decor among other changes. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A yellow gluten-free colored tag on a shelf easily lets shoppers know where to find items at Sprouts Farmers Market in The Market Place in Tustin on Friday, July 16, 2021. The redesigned store updated the signage and decor among other changes. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Plant-based meat cooler at Sprouts Farmers Market in The Market Place in Tustin on Friday, July 16, 2021.The redesigned store expanded its frozen food department, prepared meals, added more plant-based options and updated the signage and decor. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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Q: Did delivery play a big role in the pandemic for Sprouts? And if so, did that force a change in employee resources to fill the demand for order and pickup?

A: Overall, e-commerce grew tremendously in 2020, increasing 340% over the previous year. Early last year we expanded grocery pick-up across all of our stores to meet customers during an incredible time of need, in addition to delivery that was already available in all markets. We have added dedicated Sprouts team members to shop for and fulfill pick-up orders to meet the increased demand.

A section of shelves with new items displayed at Sprouts Farmers Market in The Market Place in Tustin on Friday, July 16, 2021. The redesigned store updated the signage and decor among other changes. (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG) 

Sprouts’ bio

History: Founded as Sprouts in 2002, though the company owes its roots to a family produce market that opened in 1943 in San Diego County. It grew into Boney’s Market and then Henry’s Farmers Market.

Headquarters: Phoenix, Arizona

Store count: 362 stores in 23 states, including 138 open stores in California. The chain will add 20 new stores this year, including nine in Florida.

Sales: First-quarter sales were down 4% to $1.6 billion as the pandemic continued to inhibit in-store shopping habits and customers sought one-stop shops instead.

On cutting food waste: CEO Jack Sinclair cited a nearly 60% landfill diversion rate as stores donated the equivalent of 23 million meals to local food banks.

 

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