This post, as well as the travel involved, were sponsored by Sprouts Farmers Market. As always, all opinions are my own. #HelloSprouts
If you love Sprouts Farmer’s Market, then you’ll really enjoy the inside scoop and behind the scenes action that I have for you today! For the past year I’ve been partnering with Sprouts Farmers Market creating delicious recipes using their signature line of products and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with their stores and so many of their products. You can just imagine my excitement when I was invited to the #HelloSprouts Influencer Retreat in Arizona back in August for three days of food, friends and fun! The itinerary was packed full of adventures that gave us the perfect peek behind the scenes at Sprouts. I went into this experience, not quite sure what to expect, but excited and willing to learn.
We visited the corporate offices and one of the stores, participated in fun challenges, visited a dairy farm and learned about Sprouts presence in the community. We also attended Sprouts Fest 2017, which is a huge educational summit where Sprouts vendor partners and designated team members from each of their stores come together and learn about store products and listen to industry leaders share their knowledge. A large part of Sprouts Fest is also the tabletop shows, where you can sample goodies from each vendor (there was over 500 vendors at the show!). Last, but not least, we met with many of the brilliant folks that keep Sprouts going. There was lunch with the marketing team that was focused on connecting with the customers. We met with the brains behind The Butcher Shop at Sprouts and had a fun dinner with that team, then a lunch with the Culinary Director as well. During our sustainability store tour, we met with the team responsible for the innovative ideas for sustainability at each of the Sprouts stores.
Working with Sprouts over the past year and already shopping with them as a customer, my opinion has already been favorable of their stores and products. Between the friendly staff, the product quality, the variety of seasonal flavors and the beautiful and bright layout of their stores, I didn’t think they could wow me any more. Boy, was I wrong! Being behind the scenes really showed me just how much Sprouts does for their community, their vendors, and their customers.
This retreat included 9 other influencers that have also partnered with Sprouts, so we had a great time connecting and getting to know one another while learning about one of our favorite stores! These other influencers are also phenomenal food bloggers and dietitians and we had a wonderful time experiencing these three days together. This group really represented everything I’ve experienced while working with Sprouts, genuine, inspiring, friendly and full of knowledge. I love that Sprouts has found influencers that really embody the reputation that Sprouts has built.
I love that everyone chosen for this trip from a variety of backgrounds and come from all over the country. It was the perfect sized group to experience this journey with, and in no time flat we were laughing together and chatting it up like old friends. We participated in a few competitions and challenges, separating into small teams, and by the time the trip was over we were sad to see one another go. Everyone was all smart, down to earth, helpful and generous, and it was a pleasure to have shared this experience with them.
I’ve been to quite a few conferences and expos, but starting our trip with Sprouts Fest and meeting all of the vendors at the tabletop show was such an overwhelming and enlightening experience. I tried ghee for the very first time, and got to see new products from some of my favorite brands. I also got to see and learn about so many new products from brands that I wasn’t yet familiar with, with tons of goodie bags full of samples for me to fall in love with (I really loved the crunchy chickpeas from Saffron Road). It didn’t stop at just food either, there were also beverages, bath and body care products, hair care, vitamins and so much more!
Sprouts Fest is held for team members and vendor partners to learn what’s sold in the stores and aids in the development of relationships between the two. In addition to the tabletop shows there were informative sessions from speakers that are passionate about our health and our planet. We got to sit in on sessions regarding brain health – the link between microbiome and the mind – and including foods like turmeric, blueberries and even whole coffee to aid cognitive functions and brain health. There was another discussion regarding soil health and how important it is for things like tea to be grown organically, without a cupful of chemicals.
Not only did I get the insider scoop on all of the wonderful brands that Sprouts sells in their stores, I also got to learn even more about Sprouts In-House Brand. Did you know that Sprouts has over 2,000 store brand products? There’s an entire team of in-house brand specialists that are on the lookout for all of the latest trends and sourcing the finest ingredients for their products. 74% of the packaged Sprouts Brand products are non-GMO and/or USDA Certified Organic, and in 2016, all of the Sprouts Brand eggs transitioned to come from cage-free or better than cage-free facilities.
When shopping for groceries, I choose stores based on a just a few things. For me the price point and ease of shopping are most important. I like stores that are no-hassle; easy to find what I need with an engaging layout, and affordable prices. I found out from the leadership team that the customer experience is really important to Sprouts too, and they are constantly figuring out ways to make the shopping experience easier for the customer. They’re so focused on the customer experience that if you are ever curious about a product, you can request to sample it, free of charge. Now that’s great service!
Speaking of the stores, we actually got to do a store tour during our trip where we were shown how much thought and care goes into what Sprouts calls “responsible retailing”. Responsible retailing to Sprouts is operating their business so that it still respects social and environmental well-being. When asked why this was important, they responded that it’s just the right thing to do.
Something that I’ve always loved about Sprouts is the stores are set up in such a way that you feel warm and welcome. I discovered a big part of that is the fact that they try to utilize natural lighting as much as possible by installing skylights. I hadn’t noticed before, but it makes perfect sense! Sprouts is in the process of converting all of their stores to 100% LED lighting, making their stores significantly more energy efficient when combined with the skylights. On sunny days the LED lights are able to turn themselves down and use sunlight instead. Not only are they responsible, they are innovative as well!
(Learn even more about Sprouts’ Responsible Retailing here.)
The energy conservation doesn’t just stop there. Cooling curtains are used at night on the open refrigerated sections to help keep the cold air in and to reduce the energy used by up to 50%. The coolers are monitored regularly to ensure the products aren’t blocking airflow through the grates. Stores are also stocked during the day rather than at night in order to minimize after-hour energy use. Produce suppliers are also required to comply with Good Agricultural Practices like limiting water usage and enhancing employee safety and hygiene.
With over 275 stores and still growing, Sprouts is known for setting up stores in neighborhoods that might be passed over by some higher end markets. They believe that healthy food should be affordable and available to everyone, not just the people in the fancy neighborhoods.
Making sure families have sufficient food is a cause that is close to my heart. Not surprisingly, it’s actually something I share in common with Sprouts. During our store tour, we were able to go in the back of the store to the stocking room. Here, we saw the boxes and bins labeled with items going to their Food Rescue Program. Sprouts donates any grocery items that are not marketable, but still edible, to local food programs daily.
This means that just because the produce might be bruised or otherwise have imperfections, it’s still available for consumption! There’s plenty of produce that goes through the daily quality check in the distribution center that doesn’t pass, but is still perfectly edible. Those items are also donated. In fact, 50% of the donated food that comes from Sprouts is their produce! Since the program began in 2013, Sprouts has donated more than 43 million pounds of food!
By adopting a full commitment to reach a “zero waste” threshold by 2020, they’ve created a way to partner with local hunger relief agencies in their communities. Food retailers are responsible for nearly 42 billion pounds of the almost 133 billion pounds of food wasted every year in the US (that’s almost 40% of the food supply!). In 2016 Sprouts was able to donate more than 15 million meals with the 19 million pounds of fresh food that they donated to these programs.
Providing food to local agencies is just one component of the zero waste initiative. Sprouts stores provide food for feed which enables them to support local farms to feed animals. Whatever can’t be used as feed is actually sent to composting facilities to enrich soil with nutrients.
As of now, 60% of the total waste that’s generated in every store is diverted from landfills. Even though I think that’s pretty incredible, it’s still not good enough for Sprouts. Their goal is a 90% diversion, and another large chunk of that is done through recycling. Sprouts actively recycles and has recycled 70 million pounds of cardboard and half a million pounds of plastic, to date. Stores that will be opening in the coming year are set up with recycling in mind and older stores are being updated as well. Sprouts also teams up with their producers to find packaging materials that are more sustainable. Plastics can also be brought in by customers to add to the plastic bags and film that the store already recycle. Customers are encouraged to bring in their own reusable shopping bags, and they sell quite a few cute designs of their own in store.
Each Sprouts store sources from local food producers when they can. This includes dairy products, produce, meats, and even beer! The meat and chicken are hormone free with grass fed and organic options, and always affordable. I also love that they actually assist their brands with ways to improve their product lines. We visited a local to Arizona dairy farm that was using artificial coloring for their flavored milks. Sprouts partnered with them and helped them convert to natural ingredients to benefit everyone, especially the consumer.
We got to taste some of the Sprouts meat from the Butcher Shop when we met at the Sur la Table cooking school and had a presentation by the culinary director. We learned that the beef and chicken in the Sprouts Butcher Shop is fresh, never frozen. The butchers are always ready to help answer any questions special cuts or meat types. You can even request your own custom cut meat at any time or ice with your purchase!
In addition to our dinner at Sur la Table with the culinary director, we also got to sample a large assortment of the newest seasonal grab and go deli meals from the Market Corner with him. The items we sampled are listed below and pictured above. At the time of sampling these options were not yet available in stores.
- Golden Beet and Kale Salad
- Heart Harvest Salad
- Fall Chopped Salad
- Paleo Kaleo Slaw
- Lemon Pesto Chicken Panini
- Vegan Pakora Wrap
- Buddha Bowl
- Za’atar Chicken Bowl
We had a little taste of everything, with my favorites being the Lemon Pesto Chicken Panini and the Fall Harvest Salad. These recipes are developed with distinct goals in mind; reasonably priced, nutritious and delicious are the primary focus. Let me tell you, these meals are filling and so delicious! They’re perfect for lunchtime or even a light dinner and the goal when creating each item is keeping them affordable at the $7-9 price range.
This trip was really so full of fantastic insights and delicious food, peppered with good times with some really great people. I arrived in Arizona already a fan of Sprouts Farmers Market, but left really impressed and inspired by this company. This experience really showed me that Sprouts isn’t just talking the talk. They are 100% committed to their customers, their communities and the environment. It shows in everything they do, from their company culture to the recipes they create that are sold in store. I love that with everything they do, they are still able to make healthy and delicious food affordable and available, and they’ve inspired me to make changes of my own at home.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was during a lunch with the folks that run Sprouts, we discussed easy ways for store employees to get a conversation going with customers. They wanted something more meaningful than “How’s your day going?” or “Is there anything I can help you with?” and they came up with just asking “What’s for dinner?”. I love that! It’s so simple, but opening up about recipe ideas or ingredient lists can instantly put folks at ease. Food really does bring people together and the love of good tasting and wholesome ingredients is really what Sprouts is passionate about. Being able to deliver that to the communities through their stores while also benefitting those areas is really such an inspiring business model.
Even if you don’t have a Sprouts Farmers Market near you yet, they’ve recently partnered with Amazon Prime for delivery service. Through Amazon Prime, you can now get your entire grocery shopping list including fresh organic produce, meat and seafood from Sprouts Farmers Market delivered right to their door with one hour ($7.99) and free two-hour delivery between 8 am and 10 p.m.