For all the stink my neighborhood can raise when yet another grocery store is proposed in our vicinity (good try, Publix), one might think the new Sprouts Farmers Market is an unwelcome intruder. Yet the Sprouts parking lot has been jammed-packed since it’s soft open on March 14th. It’s the first Sprout’s location in North Carolina, and therefore a great grocery store mystery to most of us outside of those who migrated here from Arizona or Atlanta. “A watered-down Whole Foods! “A glorified Trader Joe’s!” That was the word on the street while awaiting opening day.
Sprouts Farmer Market, located in the new Olive Park shopping center at the intersection of Litchford Road and Falls of Neuse, sits one short stoplight from my grocery store of choice– Harris Teeter at Falls Pointe. Naturally I was curious to know how these two stores compared and if my loyalty would shift. I tend to use quality, price, and overall shopping experience to determine where I shop and decided to focus on price since it’s the most objective and the most important to the majority of us.
I compiled a list of items I specifically purchase at Harris Teeter, mainly “perimeter” items such as meats/fish, produce, and specialty cheeses. Then I added items regularly on my grocery list like greek yogurt, milk, nut milk, eggs, and bread. I also added beer, wine, and LaCroix because they regularly make my list as well. I didn’t bother including items like cereal, chips, or snacks as I assumed it would be harder to conduct an apples to apples comparison if Sprouts truly was a spinoff of Whole Foods/Trader Joe’s. (No Doritos here, folks!)
First I went to Sprouts, channeling a little extra patience for the grand opening crowds. To keep the focus on price, I won’t offer my general (and positive) observations about the store except to say what I had heard through the grapevine wasn’t off the mark. You can find a great first look into Sprouts here from Triangle Business Journal. I easily navigated the smaller-sized store and found all twenty-two items on my list noting brand, quantity, and whether I splurged on organic or not. Two hours and some chocolate banana chip samples later, I was ready to checkout. Total: $98.67.
I took my notes to Harris Teeter the following morning taking special care to purchase the same brands, quantities, and organic items. Once again, I was able to find everything on my list. One hour later (store familiarity is always a plus), I anxiously watched the total as the items were scanned. And it came to…
Wait for it…
Bottomline: Sprouts was 9% cheaper, but as I was noting the regular price of sale items it became clear the savings could easily go the other way on any given week. For example, the almond milk I purchased at Sprouts was on sale for $2.99, with a regular price of $4.29. The very same almond milk was not on sale at Harris Teeter and has a regular price of $3.69. A $0.60 savings in favor of Harris Teeter when neither store has it on sale. Regularly priced organic chicken was $7.99/lb at Sprouts compared to $8.99/lb at Harris Teeter. Ezekiel 4:9 Bread was $1 cheaper at Harris Teeter than at Sprouts. It was a similar scenario for several other items on my list.
The good news is the two grocery stores are different enough in inventory and perks to coexist one stoplight apart. Sometimes you’re going to want chocolate banana chips in bulk leading you to Sprouts, and other times you’re going to want some real-deal Doritos pointing you to Harris Teeter. Either way, Sprouts appears to be a win for North Raleigh.
As long as I don’t mention traffic…