OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — With the snip of a ribbon and the smash of cymbals from a marching band, Sprouts Farmers Market LLC extended its reach to the wealthiest county in Kansas on Jan. 8. The chain also opened a store in Tulsa, Okla., the same day.

The Phoenix-based grocery retailer has plans to open five stores in the Atlanta metropolitan area this year. One factor in selecting new store locations is income in the surrounding neighborhoods, said Susannah Livingston, vice president for investor relations and communications.

“We go after middle America,” Livingston said during grand opening activities at the 23,360-square-foot store in Overland Park, Kan.

“The average income is usually around $50,000 in the neighborhoods surrounding our stores. We want to help bring affordable, healthy food to those people.”

Livingston said one of the things that sets Sprouts apart from other healthy or natural grocery retailers is the chain’s commitment to low prices in the produce aisle. All locations offer ad specials in produce every week. Ad prices for the grand opening included pineapples for $1, avocados for 68 cents and grapefruit and red mangoes three for $1.

Sprouts Farmers Market opens new stores“In our stores the produce section is our ‘center store’ and we use it to bring in shoppers,” Livingston said. “We take a lower margin on produce so we are usually 25% to 30% lower than other retailers on produce.”

About 25% of all Sprouts Farmers Market annual sales are produce purchases, said Donna Egan, director of public relations. Across the more than 160 stores now open, about 20% of the fresh produce is organic, Egan said.

“The organic varies from store to store,” Egan said. “One-half of our produce sales are on-ad items.”

The retailer also features locally-grown produce, but buyers are still working on developing that network, Livingston said. The chain handles all of its buying through offices in Texas, Arizona and California. Livingston said most of the produce for the new store in Kansas will likely be handled by the Texas office.