11 Things You Should Know Before Shopping at Sprouts for the First Time
Sprouts Farmers Markets are sprouting up everywhere, and — even though I had never even heard of the grocer until my move to Atlanta a little over a year ago — I could not be happier about it. Since they opened in 2002 on a mission to provide a natural, organic, and, most importantly, fresh grocery option for shoppers who are price-conscious, eco-conscious, and open to brand-new products from new brands, they have expanded to include 360 stores and show no signs of slowing down.
So, what is it that sets Sprouts apart? After all, there are a lot of markets, both large and small, that are focusing on natural foods, responsible practices, and reasonable prices. A lot, actually. Here’s what you need to know before you step foot in the store.
1. The motif is cute, wholesome, and country.
Remember Kabletown executive Hank Hooper from 30 Rock, who confounded Jack Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin) with his sweet, simple idealism and big, bright smiles? Now make that wholesome persona a supermarket, and there you have Sprouts Farmers Markets. The neighborhood indoor farmers market vibe is very much in line with their tagline, “Where Goodness Grows,” and all of their stores feel warm, friendly, clean, and accessible despite their highly curated product spread.
2. The store carries a lot of first-to-market products.
One thing I love about Sprouts is that it’s quick — among the first, usually! — to carry new brands, specialty products, and unique and hard-to-get finds from small makers, supporting entrepreneurs like an actual farmers market. That means a lot of brand names you might not be familiar with. The brands and products are, of course, vetted. To make it to Sprouts shelves, they need to have a solid mix of the retailer’s product values. Even if they don’t check off all of the boxes, the buyers prioritize items that are earth-friendly; ingredient-selective; free of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives; organic; non-GMO; and, well, you get the point. The store also makes it a point to carry a lot of gluten-free items.
3. The private-label brands are vast and offer great quality.
Sixteen percent of what’s available at Sprouts is reserved for their own private-label items, which spans across departments. Look to Fish Market for responsibly sourced wild-caught and farm-raised seafood, Butcher Shop for various grades of meat, and Market Corner for deli-style and prepared foods. Check out Sprouts Essentials for bath and toiletries, and the Sprouts logo for vitamins that are specially developed based on market trends under the company’s own rigorous quality control. And go ahead and get the “generic” shelf-stable and frozen snacks and treats and pantry staples. Some of my favorite finds have been the retailer’s own products, like its outstanding mozzarella sticks, which won this taste test.
4. You can also shop in bulk.
Costco fans will appreciate this one. Sprouts sources more than 300 products for this eco-friendly buying option, displaying a bevy of barrels filled with items, including coffee, a rainbow of legumes, nuts, grains, and seeds, granola, dried fruit, candy, and more. Personally, I can’t resist the apple and raisin yogurt-iced granola, which is essentially like big, broken-up chunks of chewy-crunchy oatmeal cookies, only better.
Note: While COVID rules apply, they’re pre-bagged in lightweight clear plastic, but otherwise, you can buy cloth bulk bag and glass containers to reuse, or bring your own. Just ask a cashier to get the tare weight before you fill it.
5. If you’re shopping on Wednesday, stop by the sushi section.
Sprouts circulars offer weekly sales that switch up every Wednesday — the same day you can pick up select Oumi sushi rolls for just $5. The exact type of sushi rotates from week to week with the change in ads. There’s more than weekly discounts, though; the company offers Deal of the Month specials and mobile coupons on their app, and also accepts manufacturer coupons, which you can easily pile on top of one another. Don’t forget to scour the aisles for BOGO deals. Just know that you do have to buy two items, though, which is an adjustment for those used to policies at other grocers, where you can buy just one on-sale item and still get half off.
6. On top of weekly sales, they offer special department discounts.
Sprouts has a program where you can save 10 percent when you buy in select quantities from one specific department in a single go: For example, if you buy four or more bottles of wine. And in keeping with their “Aw, shucks” brand personality, you don’t even have to know about it to benefit from this policy. It’s automatic.
7. There’s a dedicated culinary director on staff.
When I first had the rotisserie chicken, I was blown away. The flavors were deep and clean, the meat tender and juicy, the skin crispy. Then I learned that it was humanely raised and had no additives, which added to its appeal. After that, I branched out into heat-at-home prepared foods section and was even more impressed. The presence of an in-house dedicated culinary director shows in the quality, flavors, and variety of ready-to-cook dishes from the store’s deli department. The flavors and freshness of the fresh seafood, marinated meats, and ready-to-go salads have been head and shoulders above average — and the prices entirely reasonable for the quantity and quality you get.
8. There’s a robust bakery section.
The coolest thing about artisan bread at Sprouts isn’t that they’re cool artisan breads — the loaves from this small-batch line are actually all completely, transparently traceable from seed, to harvest, to milling, to baking! So grab one of these loaves to accompany that roti chickie. Choose from the ones that have The Market Corner organic labels on them.
And like most major supermarkets, Sprouts also has a bunch of goods that are baked fresh in-house from prepared dough, like croissants and other pastries. The cookies are stupendous: They’re chewy, gooey, thick with big chunks, and come in seasonal flavors. The grocer also does a lot with jalapeño cheddar, like cornbread and focaccia muffins, if you want to stay savory.
9. The store has a huge wellness area.
It feels like a third of the store, to be honest. And as mentioned, Sprouts is so into wellness the company’s developed its own line of vitamins. It has protein powders and supplements, too, plus teas and homeopathic remedies, nutritional oils, and more. Then there’s body care (teeth, hair, you name it), and aromatherapy and skin products. Here, you’ll find private-label and name-brand stuff. Everything is priced comparably to online shops, saving you shipping and the planet emissions.
10. They offer grocery pick-up.
Personally, I love picking out my own groceries. I like to take my time reading labels and ingredients, comparing what’s out there, examining my produce, and touching the merch. For the COVID-cautious, those pressed for time, and shoppers of need, Sprouts has launched an option to allow customers to fill their carts online and pick up their groceries at a scheduled date and time. For added efficiency, the site lets users filter easily between dietary preferences (Paleo, gluten-free, plant-based, keto, etc.), sales, new items, and more.
11. They champion food waste reduction.
All of the above makes great mention of what the store does for you, the customer, but another reason to love Sprouts is what it do for us, at large. The company works really hard to decrease food waste, diverting a whopping 90% of its waste from landfills. This is primarily through its Food Rescue program, where food is distributed through three channels: Perfectly edible, but not sellable, goods go to those in need via local hunger relief agencies in Sprouts’ communities, donating more than 58 million meals since 2013. The rest is converted into animal feed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or nutrient-rich compost for agricultural soil, depending on the condition.
Are you a frequent Sprouts shopper too? We’d love to hear your tips!