Whole Foods, Fresh Market, or Sprouts: Which Natural and Organic Grocer Had the Best Quarter?

Three of the largest natural and organic grocers have recently reported their quarterly results, so let's find out which one had the best quarter.

Mar 15, 2014 at 8:00AM

Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ:WFM)Sprouts Farmers Market (NASDAQ:SFM), and The Fresh Market (NASDAQ:TFM) are three of the most popular natural and organic grocers in the United States and all three have recently released their quarterly results. Let's analyze the reports to find out which company had the best quarter and could provide the highest returns for investors going forward. 

The quarterly releases

Screen Shot

Source: Whole Foods' Facebook

Whole Foods kicked off earnings for the industry, releasing its first-quarter report for fiscal 2014 on Feb. 12; here's a breakdown and a year-over-year comparison:

Metric Reported Year Ago
Earnings Per Share $0.42 $0.39
Revenue $4.24 billion $3.86 billion

Source: Whole Foods Market

  • Earnings per share increased 7.7%.
  • Revenue increased 9.9%.
  • Comparable-store sales grew 5.4%.
  • Gross profit increased 10.2% to $1.49 billion.
  • Gross margin expanded 7 basis points to 35.03%.
  • Whole Foods opened 10 new stores during the quarter, bringing its total to 373 in more than 40 states.

Produce Bins

Source: Sprouts Farmers Market

Sprouts released its fourth-quarter results for fiscal 2013 on Feb. 27; here's a breakdown and year-over-year comparison:

Metric Reported Year Ago
Earnings Per Share $0.07 $0.04
Revenue $608.24 million $478.94 million

Source: Sprouts Farmers Market

  • Adjusted earnings per share increased 75%.
  • Revenue increased 27%.
  • Comparable-store sales grew 13.8%.
  • Gross profit increased 27.7% to $174.22 million.
  • Gross margin expanded 16 basis points to 28.64%.
  • Sprouts did not open any new stores in the fourth quarter after it added seven stores in the third quarter; it currently operates 167 total locations in eight states.

Ph Inside Frame

Source: The Fresh Market

The last of the three to report, Fresh Market, released its fourth-quarter report for fiscal 2013 on March 6; here's a breakdown and a year-over-year comparison:

Metric Reported Year Ago
Earnings Per Share $0.39 $0.43
Revenue $425.81 million $369.86 million

Source: The Fresh Market

  • Earnings per share decreased 9.3%.
  • Revenue increased 15.1%.
  • Comparable-store sales grew 3.1%.
  • Gross profit increased 13.3% to $142.68 million.
  • Gross margin declined 53 basis points to 33.5%.
  • The Fresh Market opened five new stores during the quarter, bringing its total to 151 in 26 states.
Screen Shot

Source: Whole Foods' Facebook

What will the future quarters hold?
In the first-quarter report, Whole Foods reduced its full-year guidance by calling for the following results:

  • Earnings per share of $1.58-$1.65
  • Revenue growth of 11%-12%
  • Comparable-store sales growth of 5.5%-6.2%
  • 33-38 new stores
This guidance would result in earnings per share increasing 7.5%-12.3% from fiscal 2013; however, Whole Foods gave guidance below its previous expectations of 12.3%-15% growth and significantly below its original expectations of 15%-17% growth. Reducing guidance twice in two quarters does not appear ideal, but this has not deterred Whole Foods' expansion plans, which arguably serve as the most crucial factor in its future success.

Sprouts provided its outlook on fiscal 2014 in its fourth-quarter report with a call for the following:

  • Earnings per share of $0.58-$0.60
  • Revenue growth of 16%-18%
  • Comparable-store sales growth of 10.5%-11.5%
  • 22-24 new stores 

The earnings projections would result in growth of 20.8%-25% from fiscal 2013 and the company could easily attain these results if it sees the revenue and comparable-store sales results that it expects. Also, Sprouts' expansion plans will contribute significant gains during the year and they will help the company achieve sustained growth for many years to come.

Screen Shot

Source: Fool Flickr

In its fourth-quarter report, The Fresh Market provided its outlook on fiscal 2014; here's what it expects for the year:

  • Earnings per share of $1.56-$1.66
  • Comparable-store sales growth of 1.5%-3.5%
  • 23-25 new stores

The earnings per share projection represents an increase of 11.4%-18.6% from fiscal 2013. When it comes to expansion, the company added that it will open the majority of its new stores in existing markets, reducing its overall risk as a result. This outlook looks solid but you must take it with a grain of salt, because Fresh Market has missed earnings expectations for two consecutive quarters and the company has lost the trust of many investors and analysts.

And the winner is...
After reviewing the earnings reports and outlooks on the quarters ahead, Sprouts Farmers Market wins this three-way match-up. It posted very strong quarterly results and its outlook calls for significantly higher growth than that of both Whole Foods and Fresh Market. Today, its stock trades over 20% below its 52-week high, which represents a great entry point for Foolish investors who seek a high-growth opportunity. If you're looking to pick up a position in the natural and organic grocery industry, look no further than Sprouts Farmers Market.

Millions of Americans have waited on the sidelines since the market meltdown in 2008 and 2009, too scared to invest and put their money at further risk. Yet those who've stayed out of the market have missed out on huge gains and put their financial futures in jeopardy. In our brand-new special report, "Your Essential Guide to Start Investing Today," The Motley Fool's personal finance experts show you why investing is so important and what you need to do to get started. Click here to get your copy today -- it's absolutely free.

John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Joseph Solitro has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends The Fresh Market and Whole Foods Market. The Motley Fool owns shares of Whole Foods Market. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

Click here to learn about this incredible technology before Buffett stops being scared and starts buying!

David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

©1995-2014 The Motley Fool. All rights reserved. | Privacy/Legal Information