Earth Fare enters grocery fray with organics

Earth Fare enters grocery fray with organics

December 9th, 2009 by Brian Lazenby in Business

Workers scrambled on Tuesday to put the finishing touches on the latest supermarket addition to the Chattanooga market.

Earth Fare will open the doors to the organic grocer's 17th location this morning in the Target shopping center on Gunbarrel Road.

The store moved into the space vacated by Goody's and is setting its sights on making Chattanooga healthier.

"Changing lives for the better is important to Earth Fare," said Jack Murphy, Earth Fare chief executive. "Get on the healthy journey with us -- live longer and feel better."

Earth Fare also believes in sharing its prosperity with the communities it serves, which Mr. Murphy said is already happening by investing more than $2 million in the local construction industry while preparing the space to open. The store will employ about 110 people from the local area.

Staff Photo by John Rawlston Chattanooga's new Earth Fare grocery store is located next to the Target store on Gunbarrel Road in East Brainerd.

Staff Photo by John Rawlston Chattanooga's new Earth Fare...

The shiny, new store is stocked full of fresh produce, meats and other products that are mostly organic or come from local farms.

Kristi Kanzig, an Earth Fare spokeswoman, said the store's focus is on organic or locally produced foods, but there are also a few conventional items.

The store has a full salad bar, sushi bar and a deli with a complete line of pizzas, paninis, wraps and sandwiches. There also is a "healthy kids" menu that coincides with the company's goal of eliminating childhood obesity in cities where it operates, Ms. Kanzig said.

The 26,000-square-foot store brings to the city another grocery, but Mr. Murphy said the Scenic City has room for both his store and Greenlife Grocery at Two North Shore.

Earth Fare has a store just a couple miles from a Greenlife in Asheville, N.C. and there is plenty of business for both companies. Here, the stores are on opposite ends of town, which he said serve two distinct markets.

Mr. Murphy said the growing trend toward organic and healthy foods is here to stay.

"This is no longer a fad," he said. "This is a trend that is evolving and growing by leaps and bounds."

Not only has there been an influx of more organic specialty stores, but traditional supermarkets have felt the pressure to increase their organic and healthy foods product offering as well, said Lorrie Griffith, editor of The Shelby Report, a food industry publication.

She said there always has been a contingent of consumers wanting organic foods for a variety of reasons.

"An aging population, made up of those who may be trying to address or prevent health issues through diet, is one factor," Ms. Griffith said. "Another is the fact that there have been a number of food safety scares in recent years that have caused shoppers to look for products that have been raised or produced in what they view as a more trustworthy fashion."

Mr. Murphy said he has been eyeing the Chattanooga market for a number of years, and he believes the city is ready for another healthy supermarket choice.

"Chattanooga has really opened up its arms to us," he said.