Whole Foods vs. Sprouts: No Contest

Small regional supermarket company Sprouts Farmers Market (NASDAQ: SFM  ) has made its debut on the public market with a bang. Sprouts shares doubled on their very first trading day, making for an extremely hot IPO.

It could also be described as a clone of Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM  ) . Some investors jumping on this IPO food cart may be thinking of Sprouts as "the next Whole Foods Market." I say to them, "Good luck."

Sorry, Sprouts: Whole Foods is truly special
Whole Foods has been an incredibly successful stock over the course of its history. That's particularly masterful, because the grocery business is not a good one. Traditionally, profit margins are very thin. Without a solid competitive advantage, giving people good reasons to want to shop there, grocers often have to utilize the dreaded price war as a last resort.

Whole Foods was an early entrant into the then-small but now growing marketplace for organic and healthy merchandise. Its brand is well established. However, its veteran status has in no way formed a dinosaur like grocery megaliths Safeway (NYSE: SWY  ) and Kroger (NYSE: KR  ) .

Whole Foods continues to change with the shifting times, innovate, and try radical new moves. My favorite recent example is mind-blowingly cool. Despite Detroit's desperate economic problems, Whole Foods is testing a smaller, more basic store in the beleaguered city. Traditional investors and analysts probably view this as having the potential for disaster. Possible naysaying would include the idea that a Whole Foods would never work in such areas, or that the idea of a less expensive Whole Foods might anger its upscale customers and tarnish the brand.

Many traditional grocers probably wouldn't have been willing to take that risk. Whole Foods is venturing into a marketplace where it can also address a real social concern. Many seriously economically challenged cities' citizens have few if any options to buy for fresh, healthy food, particularly produce. Thankfully, some community garden projects are cropping up in some such areas, but many people are still left with little to choose from beyond fast food and small, limited markets.

In a surprise to naysayers and an indication of the company's strength and vision, so far that store is doing double the sales it expected. The company plans a move into New Orleans next.

Does Sprouts fall short?
The "farmers market" in Sprouts' name already indicates that it's targeting the same general ecosystem that Whole Foods does. In another dig, the fresh-looking graphic logo in its final prospectus says, "Healthy Living for Less."

Compared with Whole Foods, Sprouts is a real newb. The first Sprouts opened in 2002. Although Sprouts sprang 20 years after Whole Foods, its growth may already be some combination of too much, too soon -- with too little thought as well.

Sprouts is still a relatively small player, with 160 stores clustered in just eight southwestern states. Safeway operates a whopping 1,600 stores, and Kroger, which recently agreed to acquire Harris Teeter to add a more upscale concept to its grocery portfolio, has 2,400 stores operating under many different names.

While that gives it major growth potential, let's ponder the Whole Foods comparison. Whole Foods has 355 stores nationwide, with a few sprinkled overseas. Over two decades it's been conservative and thoughtful about how and when it opens stores. This has actually been a very, very good thing, given its extremely high profit, sales, and margins that many other grocers envy.

Whole Foods targets opening 1,000 total stores over the long haul; Sprouts says that according to a customer analytics firm, there could be room for 1,200 of its own. That does sound like heady growth, but one might wonder whether Sprouts has been engaged in rash growth and may have a management that overestimates its own competitive strength in a cutthroat market.

The IPO filing shows similarities with Whole Foods and a theme of undercutting on price. Sprouts specifically name-drops products such as Doritos, Tide, and Lucky Charms as indicative of items it won't carry in its stores, because of its emphasis on produce, and natural and organic items.

Granted, Sprouts is profitable and growing sales. However, it comes with indebtedness right out of the gate. Meanwhile, from what I can glean from its IPO filing and its website, it either imitates Whole Foods or completely pales in comparison.

Although Sprouts drops the "triple bottom line" language about supporting people, planet, and profits, this sounds more "talk" than "walk." I can't see anything particularly novel in the way it treats its people, although it claims the amorphous "competitive pay," and it provides a long list of benefits that "could" [emphasis mine] be awarded to some workers.

Unlike Whole Foods, Sprouts also doesn't appear to have any really admirable sustainability programs built into its business. It does engage in some community giving, but such community plans are also fairly run of the mill compared with Whole Foods' expansive initiatives such as the Whole Trade Guarantee program, which returns more money to producers and insures quality and fair treatment.

No contest: Whole Foods wins
Sprouts looks like an opportunistic "poser" company trying to capitalize on the growing trend of healthy living and conscious consumerism. Should Whole Foods be afraid of this upstart? Heck, no. Its worst effects will probably be on conventional grocers such as Safeway, Kroger, and even Wal-Mart.

In fact, Whole Foods co-CEO'' response to competitive challenge is to "bring it on." That's hardly a novel response from Whole Foods. For ages, management's view is that competition keeps it nimble and improves its own business. So far, that attitude has worked incredibly well, and it has certainly rewarded long-term investors.

Forget Sprouts and its "hot" IPO. Whole Foods may be the predecessor by 20 years, but it's also the original and the tried-and-true best. Imitation is a form of flattery, and imitation of course is just a flimsy shadow compared with the real vision and innovation.

If you're going to buy into organic grocers and try to ride the growing trends that are furthering interest in healthy and conscious eating, go with Whole Foods: It's the real deal.

The retail space is in the midst of the biggest paradigm shift since mail order took off at the turn of last century. Only the most forward-looking and capable companies will survive, and they'll handsomely reward investors who understand the landscape. You can read about the 3 Companies Ready to Rule Retail in The Motley Fool's special report. Uncovering these top picks is free today; just click here to read more.


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  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 10:30 AM, nycmtbwpb wrote:

    Is this written by a Whole Foods insider afraid of the newest concept? Sprouts Farmers Market is a truly unique and having shopped at both I would rather have a Sprouts in my town than a Whole Foods.

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 11:21 AM, marcinmin wrote:

    I imagine Whole Foods will do better in the market because it is bigger and has been around longer. I have a Whole Foods and Sprouts near my home and definitely prefer Sprouts. I actually liked Sunflower better before Sprouts bought them out, but that's the way it goes. Sprouts has better prices and I like the way the store is organized.

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 11:23 AM, Piper22222 wrote:

    Did Whole Foods pay you to write this article.

    I have both stores in my town and I shop at Sprouts every week for fresh produce, wine, seafood at very good prices. They are down to earh and non pretentious. You can keep Whole Foods!

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 11:35 AM, Whatisthedeal wrote:

    Sprouts is really a collection of purchases made by the Corporation doing the IPO. In San Diego the Sprouts brand purchased Boney's farmers market. And they did the same in other states. The thing about Boney's is that they owned a lot of their real estate and don't rent. To me that is a big plus. If I had to really compare them I would compare them more with a Trader Joes with better produce and a huge vitamin and supplement business with many loyal customers. I shop at a Sprouts which was a Boney's before and I look at what people buy and they sell a ton of vitamins and supplements. These are high margin items, some have a 50% and up margin. If I had to describe this part of their business I would have to compare it sales that match and surpass GNC per store. They sell vitamins and supplements to regular people who would never walk into a GNC or other vitamin store. Just spend some time in a store if you can and look at what people put in there baskets. Sprouts tends to sell more high margin items, even when it comes to their staples. The average per customer sale is about $25.

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 11:37 AM, toothpicks131 wrote:

    Alyce,

    You should really visit a Sprouts in person (rather than relying on what you can "glean" from the IPO filing and website); or, talk to Sprouts customers on why they shop there. Your article just seems to be a PR piece for Whole Foods.

    Here's why SFM will succeed or either be purchased by WFM: it offers a lower priced alternative to Whole Foods for the same, or nearly as good, quality food - a significantly better price discount than Whole Paycheck. And, WFM's strategy of creating smaller, more basic stores in Detroit and New Orleans is proving-out SFM's strategy: SFM is just a smaller, more basic WFM, but with better prices.

    I shop at both. I go to Sprouts first and Whole Foods second if I can't find what I need at Sprouts. And, I save a ton of money.

    There's room for both players in the market. Buy some Sprouts stock, in addition to your Whole Foods stock. You might be more objective.

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 11:39 AM, djclayt wrote:

    I fully agree with others. This person has probably never been in Sprouts. There is NO COMPARISON between Whole Foods and Sprouts. The customer service is fantastic and the stores are small and easy to negotiate without that "Starbucks style" feeling that you get at W.F.

    It is completely wrong to think that Wal-Mart is competition. In my neighborhood, Sprouts took so much business that Wal-Mart scrambled to try to upgrade their second class and decaying produce. They tried dropping prices, but it was only lipstick on a pig! For me, Sprouts was always the first choice and then swing by Kroger to get the items not carried by Sprouts. Then do not forget the seafood, unbelievably fresh! Best in town and the guys behind the counter know their stuff. You do not see them spraying the seafood with some kind of chemical that either preserves it or kills the smell. I have seen this at certain big chain stores. I would suggest the author go to Sprouts and spend some time. It is a great concept I only hope that growth does not mean loss of freshness and customer service.

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 11:50 AM, ufoser wrote:

    All you Sprouts people - I feel so angry at Sprouts - they call themselves "natural" - did any of you even look at any of the ingredients of their bulk foods or bakery items - 100% artificial dyes, preservatives, chemicals. Wholefoods doesn't do that.

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 12:02 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    Thanks for all your comments. True, in full honesty, I haven't been in a Sprouts, because I don't live in the regions where it does business, so I haven't been able to visit any of its outlets yet.

    I see more competitive advantage for WFM from the information I saw researching the Web site and from its IPO filing (and these are absolutely solid places for potential investors to look for information about companies' businesses). I've been following WFM for many, many years as an analyst and as an investor, so I definitely know what I like and admire about that company and its growth outlook.

    I appreciate your comments and rebuttals, it's good so that people like you who do frequent Sprouts can point out the advantages YOU see, so thanks to those of you who are taking the time to share your insights, how you feel about the experience, and so forth.

    That doesn't change my mind about the idea of investing in this company (and I'm not a fan of IPO euphoria in general, my general response is "buyer beware" when a stock pops right out of the gate), but I am most certainly noting and respect your comments, and I'm sure they are very helpful for other readers/investors who are looking at Sprouts with interest.

    If I find myself out west, I will definitely pop into a Sprouts if at all possible and check out the experience.

    Best,

    Alyce

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 12:13 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    ufoser,

    Thanks for that feedback as well. One of the folks I talked to on my discussion board here who has been to Sprouts was unimpressed with their produce selection, so... those observations are important in the analysis as well. (Particularly any sneaking in of ingredients that Whole Foods avoids, as you mention.)

    Best,

    Alyce

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 12:18 PM, Adkben wrote:

    WFM and SFM do not cater to the same customer at all and can't even be compared - the income levels of the two 'shoppers' isn't even close. If you shop at SFM it is because you are health conscious but can't afford whole foods - that is undeniably the bottom line. Vice versa for wfm - if You have the money to shop there you 'hate' sfm and would never consider going there. You all can deny that it's a financial reason but if you were to imagine yourself with a few extra zeros in your bank account, you would never step foot in another Sprouts - simple put, sprouts is where I shopped in college, whole foods is where I shop now that I have graduated - WFM will never ever ever buy SFM as they do not compete on any meaningful level at all - look to a SWY or a KR for a takeout - the only place WFM may take out is FWM.

    Full disclosure - I live in Colorado I have been inside and shopped at sprouts, sunflower, trader joes, alfafas, wild oats, whole foods and on and on

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 12:22 PM, Adkben wrote:

    I see about as many similarities as comparing Chipotle with Taco Bell - ya they both sell food, and that's where the similarities end.

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 12:35 PM, TMFJCar wrote:

    Alyce,

    Great article! Warren Buffett said "there are 'three I's,' the innovator, the imitator, and the idiot." The organic market is getting crowded, even with its projected growth. This will be an interesting space to watch going forward.

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 12:36 PM, grungenerd wrote:

    I have shopped at both Whole Foods and Sprouts. I have been consistently disappointed in the taste (or lack of it) of the fruit for the last two years. Not only that, I personally feel that the 1950's early 60's music that is played at my local Sprouts appeals to an older crowd (Older than me, at least, and I'm 53).

    I know these things seem crazy, but they do make a difference to me as a shopper.

    I have been out of work for over three years, and my husband is between jobs too, so there is no way we can afford Whole Foods, so I don't know how their fresh fruit tastes, but for now, I will stick to some of the scuzzier stores, where I can get my fresh fruits and veggies cheaper and tastier.

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 12:41 PM, returnee wrote:

    This article really does feel like you are shills for Whole Foods. I consider Sprouts to be the poor man's Whole Foods. Doesn't have near the inventory of Whole Foods but they make up for it with their customer service and prices. Would love for you to do a price comparison on the same items between the two stores. Whole Foods is overly proud of who they are and it's reflected in their pricing. I shop at Sprouts every week and at Whole Foods about twice a year. If you need an esoteric item and don't mind overpaying Whole Foods is the place ... everything else go to Sprouts.

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 12:46 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    Thanks for the thoughts and comments everyone. Please keep 'em coming, I am reading them with interest.

    Hey again, TMFJCar! That is an AWESOME Warren Buffett quote and it does capture how I'm thinking this once "niche" market is developing. It'll definitely be interesting to watch what transpires...

    Alyce

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 2:24 PM, doco177 wrote:

    This article is a shill for Whole Foods

    I've shopped at both and Sprouts wins wholeheartedly

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 2:39 PM, tessat wrote:

    I've shopped multiple times at both Sprouts (n=1 store) and Whole Foods (n=5 different stores) and found that WFM has much higher quality produce and meats, wider overall selection, more knowledgeable and friendlier customer service, and a better in store experience. The biggest differentiator is the freshness of the produce and meats. My choice is WFM over Sprouts any day. To provide context, I also shop at Trader Joe's, Safeway, and local farmers markets and prefer these over Sprouts as well.

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 3:28 PM, greyhound44 wrote:

    Only fools invest in commercial grocery store chains.

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 4:11 PM, Jnel wrote:

    I shop at Sprouts a lot, and like it, because Whole Foods refuses to open any stores in my area. Closest WF is 25 miles, and it's not worth the drive.

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 4:56 PM, TMFPennyWise wrote:

    I like both Sprouts and Whole Foods. And Kroger too. I think it's interesting to watch the (disruptive?) transformation of the grocery business in recent years.

    But one can hardly call Sprouts an upstart or newcomer. "Sprouts' traces its history back to the Henry Boney Family grocery enterprises founded in Southern California in 1947. Interestingly, their "Henry Stores" chain was purchased by Wild Oats and Wild Oats was then purchased by Whole Foods in 2007. After this acquisition Boney family members who were working for Wild Oats re-established a grocery business in Arizona and called it 'Sprouts'. In the meantime the 'Henry Stores' were then spun off by Whole Foods.

    In recent years this 'Henry Stores' branch of the original Boney enterprise was reunited with the newer Arizona based 'Sprouts' branch and the most recent incarnation came into being with the IPO.

    A confusing history, but nevertheless, Sprouts has been fast growing in the past decade and has many devoted shoppers and a talented and wise management. So I wouldn't talk so glibly and negatively about dim chances of Sprouts garnering a significant share of the natural foods market share.

    Likewise, were I Whole Foods management I would not write off Kroger's purchase of Harris Teeter as some kind of a lark. Kroger has visionary leadership in its CEO, Mr. Dillon, and I'm sure they have a strategy to take a slice of the upscale and Whole Foods shoppers' pie too.

    I think WF is in for some headwinds in the next few years.

    Just my 2 cents. Jay

    Long on WFM and KR

  • Report this Comment On August 03, 2013, at 7:45 PM, pc95 wrote:

    There's a reason why Whole Foods is dubbed, "Whole Paycheck". It is a snobby and upscale COOP with atrocious pricing, no less than a rip-off. Worse than Trader Joes and not even close to Sprouts for value. We've been going to Henrys (now Sprouts) since college and will continue - just because you enter the workforce, doesn't mean you spend as a fool. Sprouts is consistently voted best grocery market in San Diego every year by the Union Tribune, and everyone I've talked to prefer it, rightfully so. Now I haven't looked at the stock, but doubling in a day or so seems like hot-air, but then again I thought Chipotle stock was bloated, and look where that went.

  • Report this Comment On August 04, 2013, at 1:59 PM, TMFfinosus wrote:

    Alyce,

    I really loved this article. Very informative and quite a bit of natural food for thought. Many of us on the east coast are not at all familiar with Sprouts -- thanks for putting it on the radar screen!

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2013, at 12:26 PM, ChanHol wrote:

    There's a new Sprouts in central Denver, near City Park, a former grocery store desert in the city. I went there for the first time this weekend. The store was mobbed; the check-out lines wrapped halfway through the store, a 10-15 minute wait. The poorly-designed parking lot was chaos and gridlock.

    I was not about to wait in line, but since I was there, I spot-checked a dozen items that I regularly purchase at Whole Foods or King Soopers (Kroger). Sprouts was the same price or more expensive on every single item except organic broccoli. (More items were directly comparable to WFM since many items are not sold at King Soopers.) It was stunning to see the high prices and long lines. I talked to a few customers at checkout. They were convinced the items were cheaper than Whole Foods. I pointed out some exact price comparisons; the customers didn't seem to believe me.

    My conclusion: with an evangelical customer base who would rather assert that prices are lower than actually compare prices, this is a good stock in which to invest! What else can a store want than to be able to assert that their prices are low, which receiving the highest margins in town?

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2013, at 12:51 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    Hi everyone,

    Thanks again for the comments and insight.

    Apologies for not having including the Boney's angle. I did see the acquisition of Henry's Farmer's Market, and missed the earlier Boney's heritage. That is interesting -- but according to the IPO filing the first actual "Sprouts" did open in 2002. So it combined with a few other similar concepts. But thanks for pointing out that some percentage of the stores were actually in existence before. It sounds like many of you would contend that these combinations probably made the Sprouts business better in the long run.

    3Fairfield,

    Thanks for your piece too -- KR and WFM are an interesting pair. Obviously KR has never gotten me too excited given its size and age, but I would agree that the Harris Teeter deal is a good one as long as it allows Harris Teeter to continue its heritage. I have found the local Harris Teeters in my area are good grocery stores. I don't get as excited as when I am in a Whole Foods, but most do have good selections (as well as a fairly sizable amount of organic offerings).

    Chanhol, the price comparison is interesting, as is your angle on it. Since I don't like in the region that Sprouts operates it's harder to that kind of hands-on research and price-checking.

    Thanks again for everyone's input. And thanks TMFfinosus, this one is interesting. I am not excited about IPOs that double out of the gate right away generally, and I do believe WFM is an extremely formidable force to contend with for the reasons I noted in the article and more, but obviously Sprouts is an interesting stock to watch.

    Best,

    Alyce

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2013, at 12:53 PM, TMFLomax wrote:

    Excuse me, I don't LIVE in the region with Sprouts. I need to edit before I post. I have nothing against the region in which Sprouts operates, in fact I know the areas are lovely. ;)

    Alyce

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2013, at 5:43 PM, TMFDanielSparks wrote:

    Great article! Thanks!

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2013, at 6:32 PM, wamassoc wrote:

    Whole Foods Market has great produce and meat and their quality is first class. My wife is a RD and we really don't buy into the supplements and mega vitamins thing so cannot comment on that. The problem with Whole Foods is simply their prices...our Son, long ago, renamed them Whole Paycheck.

    On the other hand, Sprouts has a good produce selection and a good meat department also. Maybe not quite the same caliber, but with substantially lower prices. It generally serves a different demographic from Whole Foods, as average folks cannot afford Whole Foods.

    My other problem with Whole Foods is their refusal to consider genetically modified products. They have never been proven harmful and are as nutritious and wholesome as non modified, and with education and understanding will help us feed the poor and third world countries. (Unfortunately, a recent survey reflected that of those rejecting modified farm products, a large percentage were of the opinion that so called natural products did not contain genes, while those modified did:-)

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2013, at 7:05 PM, Klynt77 wrote:

    Up until Jan. 2013 The closest Whole Foods was 7 miles away from us. We have 3 grocery stores within 1/2 mile from our home. Sprouts, King Soopers & Safeway. We were getting into eating healthier and frequented Sprouts over the others but I did not notice much difference in things such as taste and appearance of the fresh produce.

    Then in Jan. Whole Foods opened a location within that same radius of our home. I had never actually been in a location before. It was like night and day in how the store was presented and the food looked amazing. better yet it tastes so much better then what the other stores have. not sure why that is exactly.

    Since that day we have not even stepped into any of the other 3 grocery stores as there is just no comparison. We have since learned a bunch about organic and healthy living and love visiting our local Whole Foods. We also highly recommend it to everyone we know.

    I think Alyce nails it in this piece.

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2013, at 7:30 PM, lowmaple wrote:

    Sometimes it takes many years for products' problems to show up. But if it is 60 years, then the damage is hard to document. Also hard to force feed people in a 20 year experiment.

    Then again if people in 3rd world countries can get enough food to live 60 years, that alone would be reason enough for genetic modified foods.

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2013, at 8:44 PM, johnamiller wrote:

    Whole Foods is a great store HOWEVER it's expensive. Sorry, if Sprouts is the lite version of Whole Foods but also lighter on my wallet then I think it's going to do great with everyone who is watching their budget which I assume is most of us. Even Whole Foods has said they'll have to adjust their pricing in the future presuming the organic grocer category continues to expand. Maybe Sprouts is just a Whole Foods for the rest of us.

  • Report this Comment On August 05, 2013, at 11:13 PM, somethingnew wrote:

    I like the edginess of this article but to call Whole Foods the "original" may not be completely accurate. Trader Joes was around for eons before Whole Foods and there's no telling who was around before TJ's.

  • Report this Comment On August 06, 2013, at 3:00 AM, okwhat wrote:

    Ms. Alyce, why cut down Sprouts (no pun intended)? You write this article with such an obvious WFM bias and then we find out you have no "feet on the ground" knowledge of Sprouts; it's history or its authentic beginnings… probably pre- WFM. Especially irritating was your comment "Sprouts looks like an opportunistic "poser" company trying to capitalize on the growing trend of healthy living..." Do your homework! You don’t know the Boney family. They are the originals in this business going way back to their Windmill Farms days in San Diego. You don’t have the right to call them “posers.” The Sprouts management knows exactly what they are doing. They are wonderfully positioned for the long run and this is coming from a guy who has a very close family member that actually works for Whole Foods. And your many favorable responses to the few comments here that vaguely support your analysis show your insecurity-- in the face of quite a backlash. I live in southern California and get to experience both stores frequently. I like both stores, yes, WFM has a little more "cool factor" but so what, that doesn't impress me (and we probably end up paying for that). So Whole Food challenges Sprouts to “bring it on?” They may be sorry…

  • Report this Comment On August 06, 2013, at 9:20 AM, TMFLomax wrote:

    Hi okwhat,

    I'm just being honest regarding the fact that I've never been in the stores, I think it would be "insecure" and basically dishonest if I didn't acknowledge something that is in fact true. I'd imagine many people who have invested in Sprouts' IPO haven't been to the stores and probably didn't even crack open the IPO filing, although that's just a theory based on what tends to happen with other high-flying IPOs.

    I also don't think it's a sign of insecurity that I'm willing to listen to opposing points of view and concede that some of the points may be good ones. (And I am learning a lot more about Sprouts from some of the "feet on the ground" observations -- I believe we all are learning something from a discussion/debate like this one. I appreciate that.)

    Discussion is a great way for investors to consider what stocks to invest in. I still stand by my thesis that Sprouts isn't going to "take out" WFM on a competitive basis or slow its growth, and I still don't believe that an IPO that surged like it did is a good investment right now. One thing I will also do is, admit that in the future it may turn out I was wrong. We investors can often turn out to be wrong in the long term. Not admitting that is "insecure." We can regroup in several years and see how this situation plays out.

    I really do think this is a great discussion about a newly public company's strengths and weaknesses, and I am really glad about that. (If I were insecure, I'd stomp my feet and virtually yell at people for disagreeing with my thoughts for this article. ;))

    Best,

    Alyce

  • Report this Comment On August 06, 2013, at 11:12 AM, JadedFoolalex wrote:

    Since everyone has their own favorite place to shop for food, why not just invest in all of them?

  • Report this Comment On August 06, 2013, at 11:37 AM, Dmiss wrote:

    I find it interesting that in this article there is no mention of the ways in which Whole Foods actually helps the environment.

    There are many programs Whole Foods have established throughout the world, not only supporting local and organic farmers, but providing micro loans to numerous women in 3rd world countries. These loans help families become self sufficient and give them the ability to live the life many of us simply take for granted.

    Whole Foods also educates their team members and empowers them by selling many products that are GMO, Hormone, Antibiotic Free. Many of these other markets barely scratch the surface.

    If it only came down to selling organic produce it would be easy everyone could do it. I would like to see these markets step up and walk the talk. They have much to learn from Whole Foods about giving back.

  • Report this Comment On August 06, 2013, at 3:55 PM, MomHubbard wrote:

    Whole Foods began in a tiny grocery store at the foot of my grandparents hill, W. 9th street, Lamar Blvd and 6th Street, Austin, Texas. As I am an excellent cook and always have been well served by our Texas corporation HEB, Whole Foods is little but a novelty for me. After twice purchasing what turned out to be rancid almonds, I have declined to darken the doors of Whole Foods. The prices are outrageous and the stores are geared towards those with more money than food sense. The Sprouts store here in San Antonio is by no means glamorous but the vegetable and fruits are well priced and more than acceptable. However, my grocery store of choice for basics and fruit and vegetable is our new WALMART on Austin Highway here in San Antonio. The store is now carrying Choice beef ; the flank steaks and ribeye steaks are excellent as are the ready-for-the-freezer chicken breasts. The fruits and vegetable are more than first class and the list includes Brussels Sprouts, fresh herbs, kale, and vine-grown tomatoes. Why indeed would I go anywhere else.......except a genuine meat market for true beef rumps for pot roast and leg of lamb WITH the shank still attached, and a genuine fish market for fresh fish. (Fish is Walmarts only lack and that is due to the delicacy of fish handling.)I eschew Whole Foods on general principles and use little Sprouts ONLY for inexpensive vegetables.

    I agree with the person who commented that Whole Woods is like Starbucks......pointless and expensive, a social comment about the civilization that was once the United States of America.

  • Report this Comment On August 06, 2013, at 7:46 PM, jdnetzero wrote:

    What the writer of this "glowing" Whole Foods article failed to add is that WF has stepped on a lot of people and small businesses to get where it is - for instance - it INSISTS that you give them 6 FREE FILL on the shelf - that means they do not pay for making a profit on those items - WF is a bully and the service is terrible - the entire West Side of Los Angeles has several stores with terrible customer service and very high prices - in fact it's nickname is "Whole Paycheck"....give the new guy on the block a chance...their prices are lower to begin with and they serve a real purpose in the community for bringing lower prices to people who cannot afford Whole Paycheck and their terrible service....

  • Report this Comment On August 09, 2013, at 1:02 PM, Britecrawl wrote:

    As a shopper and as an investor, I find the Sprouts opportunity to be much greater in the long term. I have been following them since the days of Boney's and Henry's and the management is first class. They have brought together the old Wild Oats stores, Sunflower, Henry's and made the shopping experience incredibly comfortable as opposed to wondering if you were going to limit out on cash or credit when you get to the check out counter. Sprouts is the kind of store you can shop at every day as opposed to just on special occasions. I'm buying on pullbacks.

  • Report this Comment On August 09, 2013, at 3:33 PM, choznin wrote:

    I live across the street from Sprouts store #2 in Scottsdale, AZ and have shopped there since they opened in 2002. I also live within a couple miles of at least 2 Whole Foods. I've shopped at both chains and can tell you that I much prefer Sprouts - mostly for it's prices, but also for it's friendly staff. I've seen the same staff members for years and know the store manager by name.

    The area of Scottsdale where I live is an upscale community that can certainly afford Whole Foods, but the Sprouts store is always busy with at least 3 or 4 checkout lanes open and several shoppers in line at each. When I go to Whole Foods, I rarely see more than 3 or 4 shoppers, in total, at checkout. So I would say that, at least in Sprout's 'hometown', Sprouts is the winner.

  • Report this Comment On August 09, 2013, at 6:05 PM, cmalek wrote:

    @Dmiss

    It is only the overfed American yuppies with nothing better to do who concern themselves about such trivia as products that are GMO, Hormone, Antibiotic Free. Those that have to constantly figure out where their and their family's next meal is coming from do not have the luxury of of choosing between "organic" and "natural" and "inorganic" and "unnatural." Their only concern is whether it is edible.

  • Report this Comment On August 10, 2013, at 1:36 AM, Libertarian71 wrote:

    I prefer shopping at Sprouts. Too many NPR-listening, Prius-driving leftist elitists shop at Whole Foods, although the owner is a solid libertarian.

  • Report this Comment On August 23, 2013, at 10:20 PM, LJFisher wrote:

    Yes, I too shop @ SFM over the WF due to price.As it was pointed out Boneys started in 1943. Probably before Mackay was born. I have it in for him as be purchased Wild Oats which I liked over SFM and WF as I thought they were nicer stores. ThE Wild Oats people started Sunflower which is now part of SFM. When I want meat or fish I go to COST.

  • Report this Comment On September 11, 2013, at 8:31 PM, Hosea81 wrote:

    I think you are all missing the main issue here. And that is, the Sprouts parking lots are so much better than the whole foods asinine mini bumper car pits full of fart smellers.

  • Report this Comment On May 08, 2014, at 12:03 AM, mred1969 wrote:

    I think that after today we'll really see Sprouts shine in its own light. The stock has suffered for months mainly I feel from being too closely identified with WFM. Too many investors have lumped all the organic grocers together and this week's numbers are showing how big a mistake that has been.

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