Whole Foods Market Asheville Nc

Whole Foods Market Asheville Nc – ASHEVILLE — Asheville’s newest Whole Foods will acquire a former South Asheville Earth Fare store, which is scheduled to open Dec. 8, said Jenna Seelig, communications specialist for Whole Foodscorporate.

This new 38,000-square-foot store at 1856 Hendersonville Road will stock more than 2,500 local products from more than 400 local vendors, according to a news release.

Whole Foods Market Asheville Nc

Many are new to Whole Foods Market, including fair trade coffee from Incite Coffee Company, roasted and mixed spices from Spicewalla, and Sunshine Sammies ice cream sandwiches.

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This Whole Foods will feature an on-site butcher shop with house-made sausages, dry-aged beef and some local products, including grass-fed Hckory Nut Gap meats.

As with most whole food stores of this size, there will also be a bakery section, a health and beauty section and a specialty section with lots of cheeses and chocolates, including products from Three Graces Dairy and French Broad Chocolates.

Asheville already has two other Whole Foods locations, including a smaller store on Merrimon Avenue and another in East Asheville on Tunnel Road similar in size to this newest store.

Store hours are not yet known. Call the store at 828-378-0477 or visit www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/southasheville at a later date for more information.

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Mackenzie Lunsford has lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and has been the staff editor of the Asheville Citizen Times since 2012. Lunsford is a former professional chef and former restaurant owner. ASHEVILLE – The multi-billion dollar grocery business is now very competitive. But the battle for shoppers’ money and attention just reached a new level in Asheville, especially among local and natural food shoppers.

In 2013 alone, grocery store openings in the area included Trader Joe’s and Harris Teeter on Merrimon Avenue, an 80,000-square-foot Ingles in Mills River, Katuah Independent Market in Biltmore Village and the announcement of a half-dozen other stores. Whole Foods opened its second store in Asheville this week. The natural foods giant — with $13 billion in sales last year — bought Merrimon’s Greenlife Grocery in 2010.

In an area where both interest and supply of natural, organic and local products is strong, stores need to find the right formula to thrive.

In 2014, organic sales nationwide were estimated at $35 billion, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. According to the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, WNC consumers spent more than $170 million on local agricultural products in 2013, a 42 percent increase over the previous year.

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“I don’t have the data on it, but I know a lot about the industry,” said John Swan, owner of independent grocer Biltmore Village Katuah Market and co-founder of Greenlife. “And there’s no other city in the country the size of Asheville that has the competition we do for natural foods.”

Asked why her company decided to build another store here, Jennifer Wozniak, regional marketing specialist at Whole Foods Market, said locations are chosen based on real estate trends, population density and income. Interest in natural and organic foods is also considered.

Wozniak said Whole Foods Market Asheville and Greenlife Grocery Asheville carry produce from 40 to 50 WNC vendors, with about 25 percent of produce and 10-30 percent of packaged goods coming from local growers. In 2013, Whole Foods Market purchased more than $7.8 million worth of products from North Carolina suppliers.

But Whole Foods has yet to enter the local market. By all reports, that distinction goes to Ingles Markets.

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“Nobody in Western North Carolina buys as much local produce as we do, and hasn’t for years,” said Ron Freeman, Ingles’ CFO. “We buy as much local food as possible, not only in Buncombe County, but in all 201 stores in six states.”

Ingles has 18 stores in Buncombe County with more than 1 million square feet. Few projects in Buncombe County are in various stages of planning, permitting and preliminary preparation, Freeman said.

The retailer’s Laura Lynn and Harvest Farms brand organic milk is produced locally by Ingles subsidiary Milkco and has local groceries in “every department,” Freeman said. “I don’t have exact figures for the number of sellers – easily over a hundred – and the total costs, but in terms of product alone, the annual purchases of local clothes in our stores run into millions of pounds.”

Earth Fare has long focused on local produce, although requests for information about how much it buys and the future of the fast-growing business have gone unanswered.

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For Katuah Market, Swann buys from 178 local vendors, and nearly 23 percent of the store’s total sales are local products.

“At Greenlife it was 5%, so we’re doing four times as much local food as there,” he said.

As Swann spoke, Whole Foods’ newest 30,000-square-foot store was celebrating its grand opening two miles away. Swann and his associates prepared to break in, only to discover that Kathua’s business was a “gang bluff”.

According to him, what sets Katuah apart from larger stores is its strong local focus. That, along with strong lunch and dinner sales at the cafe, is helping drive his business, he said.

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“I just don’t see people going to Tunnel Road for lunch,” he said. “It wouldn’t appeal to me as a customer and I don’t think it appeals to his customers. It’s just not a place where people in my world like to go.”

It’s nothing new for Swann to see whole foods creep into his territory. He was a minority shareholder in Greenlife Grocery when Whole Foods bought the business in 2010. He said the deal was negotiated without his knowledge between Whole Foods and former owner Chuck Pruitt, who also owned Greenlife Chattanooga at the time.

“From my perspective, it was a hostile takeover,” he said. “It wasn’t what I meant. I had no intention of selling the company and I would be extremely happy to still be in this position at Greenlife.”

With a Whole Foods already open around the corner, that’s only a small problem, Swann said. “Obviously I’m a little bit worried when the competition gets bigger,” he said. But this time there will be no takeovers.

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Swann said it will survive alongside other independent grocers like French Broad Food Co-Op and West Village Market because they have a niche as local stores that corporate stores “can’t touch.”

“It’s like we’re against them,” Swann said. “Community-oriented local stores versus large multinationals. We feel very friendly with the other small shops in Asheville and a lot of mutual support and respect.”

With so much competition, how does Whole Foods take a bigger bite out of the local grocery market? One way is to provide incentives through its Local Producer Loan Program, which lends money to small, independent producers to help them grow their businesses. Three Asheville vendors — Buchi, Roots and Smiling Hara Tempeh — were recipients of the Local Growers Loan Program.

But Swann said some of Whole Foods’ policies, such as requiring local grocers to have enough produce to serve a number of Whole Foods stores in their area, exclude some of the smaller growers.

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“We have a lot more flexibility to handle small orders and small businesses that don’t have the delivery or the ability to make as much product,” he said. “We’re better suited to small operators who don’t have the capacity to service the larger stores.”

David Rogers, a food industry analyst and president of DSR Marketing in Illinois, said Whole Foods has also done a good job of positioning itself as a local advocate and has done a lot in the market to increase the appeal of natural foods. And that brand awareness goes a long way.

But he believes the explosive growth of natural and organic foods, at least in high-end stores, will stabilize. “I think it will level off because of affordability,” he said. “Until the economy grows and people feel richer, they will continue to be cautious about how they spend their money on food.”

However, he believes that low-cost alternatives to charging are exploding. “Whole Foods obviously has the connotation of high prices — you know, the Whole Paycheck theme,” he said. Even stores like Walmart and Target are starting to carry organic brands, he said. “It’s very modern.”

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“They’re not stupid, and I don’t think they’re getting into the natural foods business because it’s going to go away,” Swann said. “Wait for Walmart and Target to get really serious. That will change the picture.”

But Swann said his business is not aimed at value buyers. When asked about its prices, he replies: “If you want to eat cheap, you have many alternatives.”

That Asheville offers so many opportunities for grocery stores to offer the same concept from a different angle and still stay in business is “wonderful,” he said. ASHEVILLE – The shield is set on his face

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