Lucky’s Market, the low-priced natural and organics products chain, has announced plans to add 20 new stores over the next 18 to 24 months – 16 of them in Florida, according to Supermarket News.

Lucky’s currently has 28 stores in 11 states and has focused on cities where the demographics are millennial-heavy, such as Jackson Hole, WY and Savannah, GA, notes Food Dive, which attributes the accelerated growth plan to competition from Sprouts Farmers Market, which is aggressively rolling out to new regions.

Kroger is an investor in Lucky’s, which was founded in 2003 by chefs Bo and Trish Sharon.

Announced cities are Fort Myers, Naples, Orlando, Cape Coral, Winter Park, Vineland and Lake Mary, FL. In Colorado, Lucky’s will open in Wheat Ridge and Fort Collins, CO, as well as Missoula, MO and Cleveland, OH.

Among the distinctive offerings, Lucky’s features meet-the-farmer talks, wine tastings and other events. Stores feature a fresh meat section with no growth hormones or antibiotics, a bulk bin collection and prepared foods.

"Kroger is 'an investor' in Lucky’s, which apparently is significant enough to direct its expansion strategy in Florida, where Kroger has little presence," said Jay Jacobowitz, president of Retail Insights, Brattleboro, VT. "This has the double benefit of giving a Kroger proxy a foothold in the state to compete with Publix, and acts as a block to Sprouts, which is also expanding rapidly in the state, and along the East Coast.

"The deep Kroger investment war chest may be a mixed blessing for Lucky’s: it enables much faster expansion than the company has been able to undertake in its 15-year history of about two stores per year, but will test the company’s ability to maintain consistency in its higher quality and service standards compared to conventional supermarkets.

"Of course," he added, "Kroger will swallow Lucky’s whole if they can execute profitably under this kind of expansion tempo."