Sprouts Farmers Market Locations

  • 1523 S Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 466-3390.
  • 15110 N Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa. (813) 619-4000.
  • 33652 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor. (727) 437-3824.
  • 3315 Lithia Pinecrest Road, Valrico. (813) 603-9630.

Tampa Bay’s first Sprouts opened in Carrollwood in February of last year, followed by South Tampa and Palm Harbor. Valrico opened in February, Clearwater and Riverview locations will open later this year and another location is slated for Trinity at State Road 54 and Little Road. The Arizona-based chain has also announced plans for stores in Naples, Winter Park, Oviedo, Deerfield Beach and Wellington.

What’s it like?

At 30,000 square feet, these stores are about half the size of Publix with a wide-open look achieved by not having traditional tall grocery store aisles — you can stand anywhere in the store and pretty much see the whole thing. Imagine if an old-school health food store (big section of vitamins, supplements and natural body care products, more than 300 products offered in bulk bins) mated with a much more curated traditional grocery store. It aims to be more affordable than Whole Foods (and is), but it lacks the luxurious parts of Whole Foods, like the extensive artisanal cheese selection and the broad fresh fish counter. The publicly traded chain has experienced incredible growth recently and now boasts more than 300 stores in 15 states, largely in the South.

Perks

If you’re gluten-free, this is the place for you. There are lots of crackers and snacks and a whole refrigerator case of sprouted and gluten-free breads (heavy on the Ezekiel 4:9, but are you abiding by the Bible — “Take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt; put them in a storage jar and use them to make bread for yourself” — if you’re just picking it up at the market?). Sproutsalso goes deep on meatless meat, alternative milks and nut butters.

Nitpicks

If a store calls itself a “farmers market” and makes a big to-do about its organics, I have high expectations. These were not met at Sprouts. There is no attempt with shelf labels to indicate anything that is local or regional. Most produce gets a very generic “Product of USA,” with loads of product from Mexico and Canada. Yes, there is a fair amount of organic produce, but much of it is not from this country and much of it, at least in the South Tampa store, looked very wan. In an attempt to seem more farmers-markety, much of the produce is not in vertical refrigerated cases but rather in flat “Sprouts Farm Fresh Produce” boxes, some of them patronized by swarms of little fruit flies. The anonymous/generic nature of products was even more evident in the small glassed meat case: Where is this stuff from and what are the circumstances of how it was raised? There was grass-fed beef, but very little else was labeled with provenance information.

Prepared foods

They don’t have an enormous number of prepared foods, although there is a small, tidy salad bar and some grab-and-go sandwiches and a limited number of prepared salads.

Specialty items

There are some interesting items here that you won’t find everywhere, things like a line of Saverne raw krauts or Cece’s spiralized and riced veggie noodles. I would come here specifically for the bulk items (nuts, flours, grains), which seem exceptionally well priced.

Customer service

There seem to be very few staff members on the floor to answer questions or guide shoppers. Checkers/baggers are friendly and enthusiastic (especially if you bring your own bags, for which you get a 5-cent rebate), but I didn’t encounter anyone who seemed steeped in knowledge. (Example: The deli counter sells Dietz & Watson cold cuts, a big competitor to Boar’s Head, but counter folks didn’t know off the top of their heads that the “ABF” versions of the meats were antibiotic free.) Sprouts offers an app with mobile coupons and weekly specials.

Price check

Milk: $2.50 per half gallon

Boneless skinless chicken breast: $3.99 per pound

Avocados: Two for $1

Statement from the store

“We believe healthy living is a journey and every meal is a choice. We love to inspire, educate and empower every person to eat healthier and live a better life.” That’s a mission statement I can get behind, even if it’s a little grandiose. Sprouts is clearly in a race with Lucky’s to expand its Florida footprint. Sprouts’ rapid Southeast expansion is anchored by a distribution center that opened in Atlanta last year.

“We knew residents’ interest in health and value would make Sprouts a natural fit for Floridians,” said Ted Frumkin, chief development officer. “We’re ramping up expansion efforts based on the strong performance of our Tampa and Sarasota stores, and positive customer response to the affordable fresh and natural products across the entire store.”

Conclusion

Sprouts Farmers Market’s goal is to carve out a niche as the go-to for affordable natural and organic foods. It seems to achieve this, with a greater focus on natural foods than its fellow bargain-priced Aldi, but without some of the more luxe items of stores like Whole Foods or Fresh Market and without the encyclopedic array of products of Publix. The company donates extensively to food banks and is committed to a zero waste threshold by 2020.