Rivals look to take down Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s
The two titans of natural grocery both have well-established brand images in the minds of consumers: Trader Joe’s has its strong private label showing and talkative cashiers, and Whole Foods has its immersive shopping experience and hot bar with every food imaginable. But the two grocers may have a new wildcard to contend with as Earth Fare, a natural grocery chain based in Asheville, N.C., embarks on a nationwide expansion.
Earth Fare, which began in Asheville, N.C. in 1975, recently brought on new CEO and president Frank Scorpiniti, whose credentials include a stint as senior vice president of pharmacy operations at New York’s Duane Reade in 2008. The chain had amassed only 33 stores in the past 40 years, but has its sights set on opening more than a half a dozen locations in 2015.
On Feb. 25, Earth Fare opened a store in Portage, MI, its first Michigan location. According to an article on Mlive.com, there was a line of more than 150 people when the store opened at 7:00 a.m. The store gave out 100 promotional gift cards of between $5 and 500 in value to those standing in line.
Earth Fare differentiates itself by going heavy on health food ideology. This extends to their selection of products.
The chain’s website features a "Food Philosophy" section, which reads in part, "What really sets Earth Fare apart from other stores is the list of things we don’t offer … like any products containing high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial colors and sweeteners, and synthetic growth hormones in fresh meat and dairy." The FAQ page likewise gets granular about the grocer’s stance on hot button green issues like GMOs.
Earth Fare is not the only competitor gaining ground behind Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. Arizona-based Sprouts Farmer’s Market has beefed up its presence recently, announcing the addition of seven new locations slated for 2015.
According to an Albuquerque Business First article, co-CEO of Whole Foods Walter Robb directly addressed the possibility of Sprouts being a threat at a luncheon held by the Economic Club of Phoenix in January.
"They’ve done well. They are not Whole Foods. They don’t have the same standards, though sometimes they would represent that they do," Mr. Robb said of Sprouts. "We are going to continue to be the leaders in this space. We are the leaders, we’ll continue to be the leaders."
According to the article, Mr. Robb said his comments can be considered a "competitive throwdown."
- Sprouts Farmers Market Announces Early 2015 Expansion Plans – Sprouts.com
- Why Whole Foods’ CEO isn’t worried about Sprouts – Albuquerque Business First
- Earth Fare gets new CEO, plans to add stores in 2015 – Citizen-Times
- Food Philosophy – EarthFare.com
- Earth Fare opens Wednesday in Kalamazoo/Portage with a rush of people – Mlive.com
Which chain is more vulnerable to competition within the natural grocery space: Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods? What will Earth Fare, Sprouts and others have to do to cut into the share currently held by Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods?