New York—Representatives of Sprouts Farmers Market, headquartered in Phoenix, AZ, recently made the trek to New York City to take part in NASDAQ Fit Week, which promotes NASDAQ-listed companies that are focused on health and healthy lifestyles. This is the fourth year that NASDAQ has held an official Fit Week in the first week of January.
The main event for participating companies is taking part in an Opening Bell ceremony at NASDAQ MarketSite in New York’s Times Square. Janet Little, director of nutrition for Sprouts, took time out the day before to talk with WholeFoods about the event, how far Sprouts has come and what’s in the works.
WF: We all know Sprouts Farmers Market became a public company in the summer of 2013, when shares of the company were listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. How did it come about that Sprouts would participate in NASDAQ’s Fit Week event?
Little: Last year we were invited to participate in Fit Week. The reason why we were invited back is that we’re a company that helps promote healthier lifestyles, not only through the products that we sell, but also through how we educate our team members and the educational opportunities that we offer both in-store and online, via our Web site.
WF: The company must be excited to visit NASDAQ in Times Square. Who will be there representing Sprouts?
Little: Our CEO Doug Sanders will be there, also our COO Jim Nielsen. [Chief human resources officer] Nancy LaMons will be there, as well as others that work for Sprouts and their friends and family. They’ll all be up there to help ring the NASDAQ bell tomorrow. Each day they invite one company to come and ring the bell. For Sprouts, not only do we ring the bell, but also via social media, through both NASDAQ and Sprouts, we’re giving out some quick healthy tips that can help people with their New Year’s resolutions in 2015.
WF: Yes, it’s definitely fun to see a stock exchange tweet out, “Take these ‘essential 4’ supplements: Multivitamins, Omega-rich Oils, Probiotics and Superfoods to help fill nutritional gaps in your diet.” What do you hope to get out this event?
Little: Part of it really was to come out to New York and be available. Ringing the opening bell and having it up on the big Jumbotron in Times Square, where some of our healthy tips will also be displayed. It’s just to create more awareness with people. One, of Sprouts, and two, of the simple things you can do to live a healthier lifestyle.
WF: Do you have any thoughts on this last of stretch of time for Sprouts and what it’s meant to the company?
Little: It’s been extremely exciting. We’ve come a long way within a mere 12 years. We became public about a year and a half ago, and we’re currently operating more than 190 stores in 10 states. We’re one of the fastest growing chains in retail. On average we have about two million customers that shop our stores every week. Just today, we opened two stores, so we’re growing quickly. In the spring of 2015, we’re going to open our first store in Tennessee. The excitement when we open up stores shows that people love our concept. We plan to have, potentially, 1200 stores throughout the country.
WF: Other than expansion, what else is going on with Sprouts? Anything new with regard to its education efforts, since that’s an area you work with closely?
Little: A very large focus of Sprouts is education. There’s so much information out there, and our customers sometimes come in wanting to learn but not knowing where to turn to. So, an initiative that we’re focusing on for 2015 is educating our team members.
Each month we have what we call “huducation” [a combination of team "huddles" and education]. It’s kind of like our cute little word, but really what it is, is each month we focus on a topic. I write up a “Did You Know?” fact sheet with some stats and some nutritional information. The team members, when their in their huducation, they learn about it and discuss it. Then at the end of the month they take a little quiz. We try to make it fun and incentivize it, such as whoever gets 100% scores gets a gift card or a pizza party…we try to make it enjoyable.
For our customers, I’m really excited that we’re working on offering more online educational experiences. I have the wellness webinars that I’ve been doing now for three years, we offer those twice a month. I have professionals within a field come on, and it’s a PowerPoint driven platform where people can sit in their home and get this information. Afterwards, we actually have a Q&A session so people can participate in the webinars. They type in their questions, and then I ask my guest. That’s extremely popular.
I’m working on including podcasts in the lineup, so that’s exciting. People can just use their mobile devices, and access the information on their time, whether it be health topics, product trends… just a variety of subjects. With the podcasting we can get a little bit more granular, as it’s more of a discussion type format.
WF: Janet, best of luck to you and to Sprouts as you move forward. Thanks for taking the time.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, February 2015 (online 1/8/15)