There is a new breed of grocers emerging in Fort Collins. In the
past six months two new organic food stores have successfully made
their way into the city.
Joining Fort Collins’ veteran organic food market, Wild Oats, is
the Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market and the smaller,
Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Sunflower Market.
“The population here (in Fort Collins) has a greater interest in
nutrition, health, fitness and eating well than many of the other
states,” said Kim Mueller, marketing director for Whole Foods.
“Education is the primary determiner to open a store, and Fort
Collins has that.”
Mueller explained the four basic groups that Whole Foodsl, 2201
S. College Ave., target are natural food shoppers, people with an
athletic lifestyle, educated people and people who have experienced
something diet-altering, such as being lactose intolerant.
On the other hand, Sunflower Market, 2601 South Lemay Ave., with
the slogan “serious food at silly prices,” offers “natural and
organic foods to the masses,” said Mike Gilliland, owner of
“We target the middle-class, people who have some interest in
eating healthy but don’t necessarily have the money to shop at
Whole Foods,” Gilliland said.
America’s organic food industry has grown at an average rate of
20 percent annually since the early 1990s. Last year alone,
consumers spent $42.8 billion on natural and organic products,
according to research published in The Natural Foods Merchandiser
Organic foods, according to The United States Department of
Agriculture, are those foods made without any synthetic chemical
fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics or growth
Organic foods are seen by many as safer alternatives to
mass-produced products using a host of chemicals.
Kailey Schumacher, a junior human nutrition major, shops mainly
at Whole Foods. She said she started eating organic three years ago
when she took a nutrition class and learned about how eating
corporate and non-organic food affects the whole world.
Dawn Thilmany, an associate professor in agriculture and
resources economics, said there have been claims that if we don’t
eat organic and natural foods, the unnatural aspects will come back
to us in rivers and other areas of the environment; although,
Thilmany said these claims are questionable.
Dana McClure, a senior Spanish major, shops at King Soopers
because it is close to her house and inexpensive. She said organic
foods stores are a good idea, but too expensive.
“It’s really hard (to afford organic food), but I try to budget.
If I can afford (organic) that’s the way I’ll go. I also look for
cheaper brands,” Schumacher said.
Although Sunflower Market has a smaller selection than its
rivals they may be ideal for the average college student.
“We kill them at price,” Gilliland said. “We provide all
products everyone needs at a better price.”
Thilmany said she believes there is a high demand for organic
food in Fort Collins, but not as much as in Denver.
Thilmany worked on a study of natural and organic consumers and
found three different groups.
“I found some people are motivated by private concerns such as
health benefits and to get calories and nutrients; (this group)
also may have young children and are concerned with meat and all
the hormones and antibiotics,” Thilmany said.
Thilmany explained that the second group of people who buy
organic and natural foods are very brand-conscious.
“These people love high-end and want to have the best, a sort of
‘keepin’ up with the Jones’ idea. When grocery shopping, these
people are not necessarily concerned about the production or
product attributes, but only with the high-end aspect of (organic)
food,” Thilmany said.
Thilmany said the third group of consumers is concerned with
aspects of civic agriculture. This group is worried about personal
health as well as societal and economic concerns and the well being
of their community.
Both Whole Foods and Sunflower Market accommodate local area
“To categorize (the rise in organic food) generally, organic
food tastes better; it generally has a nicer texture and better
flavor. More people are interested in food safety and avoiding
incidental additives, things you aren’t intending to consume, but
do with non-organic food,” Mueller said.
However, each individual decision to purchase organic foods may
be contingent on many possibilities.
“People must weigh the evidence themselves and see if (organic
food) fits into their lifestyle,” Thilmany said.