the north face A sneak peek at Southwest Florida
There 23,500 square feet of grocery space at Earth Fare and not a single artificial preservative to be found.At a Thursday sneak peek at the store opening this weekend, I learned that the nutrition labels and the food are free from added hormones, artificial fats and antibiotics.The latest addition to the Southwest Florida grocery scene is all about eating clean. That why the only place you find any of these taboo ingredients are in the words of the company food philosophy in a pledge to keep them out of the store. Saturday at the intersection of State Road 70 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.It is the 46th Earth Fare, the eighth in Florida and the third in the Greater Bay Tampa area, with the closest being in Seminole. Over the next several years, the organic grocer could have as many as 10 between Tampa and Ft. Myers, Scorpiniti said.Lakewood Ranch was a good fit for the company first Southwest Florida store, but there also potential in other parts of the area. He’s not making any promises, but adding other Earth Fares in Sarasota or Manatee counties isn’t out of the question.But between the planned biomedical research park nearby, the medical facilities in the area and even the LA Fitness that slated to open in Earth Fare shopping center, there already an emphasis on health, wellness and sustainability on that side of town.Now it just a matter of becoming a part of it while finding a way to stand out from the crowd.And believe me, there is an organic grocery store crowd here these days.Southwest Florida has welcomed a Lucky Market and a Sprouts Farmers Market in the past 10 months, and our second Whole Foods Market is to open on Wednesday. Not to mention the Fresh Markets, Earth Origins, Detwiler Farm Markets and Richard Foodporiums that already have roots here.So I sat down with Scorpiniti in his mostly stocked store Thursday afternoon just two days before the grand opening to get an idea of what makes Earth Fare different from its competitors.The chain operates on the principle that healthy, clean food should be accessible to everyone, he told me. That something that we heard before, specifically from Lucky with its for the 99 percent motto.Earth Fare approach to it,
though, is a little different. The company 750 private label products are entirely free from GMOs, with hundreds more in the works. Scorpiniti list prohibits more than 130 potentially harmful chemicals from the shelves, whether its something you heard of like fructose syrup or something you might not have like azodicarbonamide.They got special misters in their produce department and prepared foods section that are designed to keep foods fresh but chemical free. Earth Fare has a Food Security meal plan that it says can feed a family of four cleanly for an average of $2.50 per person every night.In theory, that less than you spend at the drive thru, and with menu items like grass fed fajita beef for $3.99 per pound or a whole roasted chicken for $5, it much kinder to your gut than a greasy, fried alternative.They also sought out the community input about the products most needed on their shelves. Earth Fare has been working with a team of local professionals, mothers, doctors and students for two months. The outcome is splattered throughout the store and marked with tags that say “Community food advisory board approved.”Like many of its competitors, Earth Fare has a bulk foods section, a prepared foods bar, a salad bar, a peanut butter grinder, a deli, an in house bakery, a cheese counter and a hearty vitamins and beauty section.But there a different attitude that goes with it, and it all goes back to that pledge, Scorpiniti told me.It plastered on the walls so his customers can be comfortable with anything they pick up in his stores.You could shop blindfolded and still feel good about everything you put in your cart, he told me.And while I certainly don recommend that,
it definitely one way to stand out in the organic grocery crowd.