Lies, Damn Lies, and Marketing

Sprouts Logo

Many in the KC metro area might have noticed the press a new grocery store is getting. "Sprouts" recently opened a new store in Overland Park, right off 135th street. Reading the newspaper articles, description, and marketing, I was really excited to see this store go in. After all, Fin and I make an effort to buy local / organic produce when possible. I mean, look at their advertising materials:

Terms that might catch your eye:

  • independent
  • natural
  • farm-fresh
  • natural, organic
  • non-traditional
  • farmers market-type

Now, as this store bills itself directly as a "farmers market", it would stand to reason that they'd have local brands correct? No doubt, they'd have a heavy focus on organics? Wrong.

Sprouts largely stocks items from their own house brand. While marketing materials may indicate "grass fed" beef, or "organic", a significant amount of the produce and meat doesn't fit the advertised bill. True, they have large sections of organics. But, immediately under the HUGE stylized "Organic" and "Local" signs are conventionally grown products from your usual suspects of industrial agriculture. They DO have a large organic section, located in the middle of the store. Helpfully, every single piece of organic produce has a friendly "Organic" green sticker attached, thus advertising your concern for the environment, health, and reducing pollution. Just don't forget to throw it away… er.. recycle it before eating.

This store is located in a convenient location for me, so I wanted to check for a few key staples I'd expect at a "farmers market", namely, locally grown produce and brands. While it's possible they sold out, miss stocked, (or I flat out missed seeing them), I was unable to locate:

  • Shatto milk
  • Boulevard Beer
  • Good Natured Family Farms Meats

Really, what I saw out Sprouts was a minimal presence of local brands.

Generally, this would be my default expectation in a modern grocery store. However, the fact that Sprouts advertises itself as a "neighorhood farmers market", the dirth of local brands and farmers borders on false advertising.

If you look carefully at the advertising materials and information provided by Sprouts, its very clear that their produce is no more gauranteed "Local" than buying the exact same thing at ANY grocer in the KC Metro.

Now, if you want to locate, actual local produce, it's not hard to drive a few blocks down to Hen House, where you can find "Good Natured Family Farms" products. While Fin and I keep shopping at traditional grocers down to a minimum, we've been fairly pleased in dealing with HyVee as another alternative. They might be a big chain (about the same size as Sprouts really), but they have both local and natural foods sections. The managers are also open to suggestions on carrying new local brands or organic products.

Yes, it's possible to put your dollar behind local and sustainable produce without shopping at the newest FAD super market.

If you really want a "neighborhood farmers market" experience, visit KC Food Circle to see what's going on locally. Even in the dead of winter, there IS farmers market activity going on.

I may still stop by Sprouts for picking up random odds and ends, but its definitely not "local" food, and doesn't rise to the selection of organic and natural products as Whole Foods. Sprouts is nothing more than a new grocery chain trying to move into our area… And so far, I'm NOT impressed.

— Fate

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