Two New Healthy Grocery Stores Are Coming To The East Bay

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The rendering of the future New Seasons in Emeryville's Public Market.  (Hart Howerton Architects)

Along with rising rents and shifting demographics, another sign of change has come to the East Bay: two new health-focused grocery stores--both which emphasize their affordable prices-- will open in Oakland and Emeryville over the next two years. Each is estimated to create around 100 jobs.

Nationwide chain Sprouts Farmers Market, which is currently being built on Oakland’s Auto Row, will open January 13 of next year, and Portland-based New Seasons Market will open their second California location in the Emeryville Public Market in early 2017.

Smaller stores but still strong competitors

The future site of the Sprouts in Oakland on Broadway and 30th.
The future site of the Sprouts in Oakland on Broadway and 30th. (Shelby Pope )

Sprouts, which opened its first store in 2002 in Chandler, Arizona, and now has over 200 stores nationwide, focuses on organic and healthy products. A Sprouts store is also smaller than most grocery stores--an average Sprouts store is only 20,000-30,000 square feet, compared to Safeway’s average of 46,000 square feet--making it a good fit for urban locations. The new Oakland store, Diego Romero, Sprouts’ corporate communications manager said, is essentially filling in the distribution gaps in the store’s expansive reach, which stretches throughout the Bay Area and include locations in Petaluma, Walnut Creek, San Ramon.

“We do really well in California because it’s such a healthy-minded state,” Diego Romero, Sprouts’ corporate communications manager

Over the last few years, Sprouts has positioned itself as a worthy competitor to Whole Foods. The company went public in 2013, and received praise for its combination of low prices--unlike Whole Foods, they have a weekly circular ad with frequent promotions--and quality produce. In the years following, they’ve expanded aggressively, opening more stores in the Southwest.

A B Corporation pioneer

A New Seasons in Beaverton, OR.
A New Seasons in Beaverton, OR. (New Seasons Market)

New Seasons is a newer addition to the Bay Area. The Portland-based mini chain, which opened its first store in 2000, has 16 stores in the Oregon, one in Washington and one in San Jose. Like Whole Foods, New Seasons promotes its employee perks, which include profit sharing, and paid time off to volunteer. They’re also the first grocery store to be certified as a B Corporation, a certification awarded to by the nonprofit B Lab to companies that demonstrate “rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.”


The company recently announced their expansion into two new areas, the Puget Sound region and Northern California. And while this is only the second official New Seasons store in Northern California, they’re already familiar with the area. New Seasons also owns five New Leaf Community Markets in the Santa Cruz area, a collection of similarly healthy food stores.

Comparable to Sprouts and Whole Foods, the Emeryville New Seasons will feature large amounts of healthy, local and organic products. Jerry Chevassus, New Seasons Market Head of Store Development, said that about a third of products in a typical New Seasons store are locally sourced. But, unlike their competitors, New Seasons aims to be a one-stop shop through being what’s called a "dual line grocer," meaning that it serves as both a general grocery store and specialty store. Chevassus estimates that about 75% of their products fall under the “healthy” umbrella--local, organic, or non-GMO--but the other 25% of their products are more conventional, traditional offerings.

“You can come into a New Seasons Market and get locally sourced organic, grass fed beef--and you can also get your Cheerios,” he said. “We want to give our customers a choice."

“I was working in one of our latest grand openings and a women came up to me with her cart and she said, almost in a whisper, ‘Where’s your Diet Pepsi?’ She didn’t want anyone to know. I just started laughing and said, ‘Yeah, I’ll show you where it is.’”

A crowded field of competitors

And while parts of the East Bay--such as food desert neighborhoods like West Oakland that struggle to get just a single grocery store -- both new stores will go into areas rife with competitors. Sprouts will be located across from discount grocer Grocery Outlet and down the street from the Oakland Whole Foods. Similarly, the New Seasons is close to both local favorite Berkeley Bowl West and the Pak N Save on the Oakland/Emeryville border.

But Chevassus said they’re not worried about the competition. “I know there’s a lot of competition in the area, healthy grocery stores,” he said. “But we bring something pretty unique to the table that I think the people in Emeryville and really the entire Bay Area are going to love.”

Sprouts isn’t worried either, confident that their commitment to low prices--a 2014 Bloomberg analysis found that Sprouts’ items were about 13% cheaper than their counterparts at Whole Foods--will endear them to Oaklanders.

“Sprouts makes healthy living affordable. We lead with healthy food at great prices, and we really go to market with produce. We’re really looking to give healthy food options to the everyday shopper,” said Romero. “We have such a high sales volume of produce, [and] we do have a larger margin than most stores because of our volume. But we are willing to accept a lower profit margin to offer the best price.”