With a store in Scottsdale, three in Phoenix and locations in nearby Mesa, Glendale, Gilbert, Peoria and Surprise, Sprouts Farmers Market makes it easy and convenient for local consumers to gain access to their wide selection of gluten-free grocery items. And while other local retailers offer gluten-free goods, Sprouts has carved an enviable niche as the go-to store not just for accessibly priced products, but also support, education and resources for celiac sufferers and the gluten intolerant.
“I believe we really cater to our gluten-free customers above and beyond what other retailers offer,” says Stuart Couturier, Grocery Buyer & Category Manager for the chain. “We have a free Gluten-Free Guide that can point a newly diagnosed celiac in the right direction. We also offer a gluten-free-specific set in the grocery department to test new gluten-free items; this ensures that we are always on top of new and exciting products in the category.”
The store also sponsors events and participates in other awareness-building activities at the local level. “Sprouts has been a huge supporter of community events such as the Greater Phoenix Gluten-Free Expo,” comments Couturier. “Our vendors have always been great about providing us with sample products to hand out at these functions so that people know where they can purchase them. We also support celiac groups in each region in which we operate and get a lot of communication out to the celiac community through their newsletters.”
Customers, he says, are grateful for the personal care and assistance being offered. “Sprouts has received hundreds of emails from gluten-free customers sharing how appreciative they are that we offer such a great selection of gluten-free products. They are also very open about sharing how Sprouts has impacted their lives and made this dietary transition so much easier on them than they ever expected.”
Sprouts became a pioneer in the gluten-free field much earlier than many of their retail rivals with the launch of their now-famous “Gluten-Free Jubilee” savings event back in June 2009. At the time, gluten-free products were more expensive than they are today, notes Couturier, and the event afforded customers the chance to save money and try new items they might otherwise feel hesitant to purchase because of the cost. Although the prices of gluten-free goods have declined somewhat since that time, the event has endured and remains popular with local shoppers, who now enjoy a wider selection of products than ever before, still at a reduced price.
Although all of their gluten-free items sell well, brands like Ian’s, Glutino, Pamela’s Products, Bakery on Main and Kettle Brand are particularly popular with Greater Phoenix consumers, says Couturier. One of the hottest new items to arrive in stores this year was Annie Chun’s Roasted Seaweed Snacks. “They are low in calories, fat and carbs and high in vitamins and minerals, so they have a mass appeal while satisfying the gluten-free dietary restrictions as well,” he notes. And patrons can look forward to more exciting new products to come. “Blue Diamond has come out with a line of nut-based chips that will be hitting the shelves in the next few months. At Sprouts, we are always thinking of new ways to promote gluten-free and are always on the lookout for new and exciting products. We’ll continue to strive to be first to market with the latest and greatest gluten-free items.”
Notably, the chain takes close stock of consumer feedback and aims to be as responsive as possible. “As a Category Manager I keep all of the customer feedback that is sent my way and refer back to it as I conduct the category reviews,” says Couturier. “We now have more access to customer feedback than ever since we are on Facebook and Twitter.” Personal attention, affordable prices, educational resources and a wide array of the latest products should help ensure Sprouts remains a top choice for local gluten-free consumers for many more years to come.
To find the Sprouts location nearest you, consult the store locator tool on their website. Sprouts’ Gluten-Free Guide can also be found online.