Nov 072004
Authors: Amy Rizer

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

Sunflower Market.

“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

trade magazine.

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.

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