Is Sprouts Better Than Whole Foods? (No. Here’s why)


If you’re a Whole Foods shopper, you probably love natural, healthy foods. But you also know that they can be a bit pricey. You’ve heard about Sprouts and have heard that they may be cheaper. So is Sprouts better than Whole Foods?

Here’s what I know from my 2+ decades of experience:

No. In most regards, Sprouts Farmers Market stores are not as good of a store as Whole Foods Market stores. While they may be cheaper on conventionally-grown produce basics, their overall selection & customer service is limited, and unlike Whole Foods Market, Sprouts does sell products with artificial ingredients.

But that’s just a quick answer. There are a lot of questions people have when comparing Sprouts Farmers Market and Whole Foods Market.

Is Sprouts owned by Whole Foods? Are they really cheaper and do they sell all-natural or all organic foods?

I’ll answer all of these questions and more in this article.

Just keep reading!

Is Sprouts owned by Whole Foods?

No is the short answer.

Sprouts Farmers Market stores have a very similar look and feel of a Whole Foods Market store circa 1992. This can be reminiscent of a more traditional natural foods store. It can also make you wonder if Sprouts is owned by Whole Foods.

The first Sprouts Farmers Market was opened in 2002 by Stan and Shon Boney in Chandler, Arizona.

They are still a privately owned Arizona-based chain with locations in Arizona, California, Colorado, and Texas. They are, however, publically traded on the stock market under the letters SFM.

Whole Foods Market is based out of Austin, TX, and operates stores all over the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Whole Foods was bought by Amazon in 2017. But founder John Mackey still runs the company as CEO.

Whole Foods and Sprouts are very similar stores.

They both sell mostly natural and organic products. And, both stores sell health products, like vitamins and supplements. Both Sprouts and Whole Foods have in-store dining areas and sell fresh salads and sandwiches.

Despite these similarities, Sprouts and Whole Foods are not affiliated. In fact, on their website, Sprouts makes a bit of a dig at Whole Foods.

Knowing that Whole Foods has gained the moniker “Whole Paycheck”, Sprouts says “…no more spending an entire paycheck for food from the honest effort of a farmer …” right on their About page.

Their goal is to sell farm-fresh produce and other healthy items at an affordable price. They want to create a grocery experience where shoppers don’t “have to be wealthy to eat healthy!”

Is Sprouts a good grocery store?

I have shopped there, but overall, I’m not crazy about them. Here’s why.

Like Whole Foods, Sprouts sells a variety of health food products:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • General groceries for babies, pets, and the household

Sprouts has a large variety of natural, organic, and non-GMO items. They are also very affordable.

Just like Whole Foods, they have an in-house butcher, seafood, and a full-service deli. However, if you recall, in the above section, I mentioned they looked like a Whole Foods store circa 1992.

That’s not an accident.

Sprouts intentionally wanted to make their stores look and feel the way Whole Foods stores did before they went public and started trying to become the large multi-national corporation they are today.

So Sprouts went after all the old hippies and disgruntled shoppers who felt disenfranchised by Whole Foods going “corporate” (I know, I was there on the frontlines at Whole Foods then).

The problem is (at least with me) that it’s just a veneer.

If you look closely at some of the products at Sprouts (especially the candy in the bulk bins), you’ll see tons of artificial colors. The overall mix of products may be all-natural (they claim 90% on their FAQ page). But one of the big reasons people shop at Whole Foods is so they DON’T have to read the label.

They know everything at Whole Foods is all-natural or organically-grown.

But sometimes Whole Foods is more expensive on some items. Just read this recent article for more information about Whole Foods pricing. What really surprised me was how much money in fines Whole Foods has paid for incorrect pricing.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is Sprouts produce cheaper than Whole Foods?

Not really, is the short answer.

According to Cheatsheet.com Sprouts is one of the six cheapest grocery stores in the U.S.  And, Sprouts focuses on bringing affordable, fresh produce to consumers.

They get produce shipments delivered frequently and focus on quality and freshness. As a result, they have an excellent selection of high-quality, reasonably priced produce.

Now that being said, what I usually notice when I shop there is non-organic items like onions front and center at a rock bottom price. But then as you go further into the Produce department, you don’t always see cheaper produce; especially on the organically-grown items.

So they put the cheap stuff up front to imply that the whole department is inexpensive. But that’s just not always true.

According to CNBC, since Amazon purchased Whole Foods, prices have dropped dramatically on several items. Particularly on natural and organic food.

Before the purchase of Whole Foods, products at Sprouts used to be about 20% less expensive than the same products at Whole Foods. Now Sprouts is 1.3% more expensive than Whole Foods.

There may be some areas, like produce and meat, that are more expensive at Whole Foods than they are at Sprouts. This is because Whole Foods really focuses on where their products are coming from. Whole Foods also works very closely with ranchers and farmers to ensure the wellbeing of animals that are being raised for meat.

Overall, the standards are just higher at Whole Foods Market. And with pricing changes thanks to Amazon’s buying of the company, the only reason to shop at Sprouts would be convenience; not price.

I think it’s worth paying a little extra if it means that cows are living their best life and being humanely slaughtered.

Is Sprouts all organic or all-natural?

No, is the short answer.

Sprouts may want consumers to believe that they are all organic or all-natural, but in truth, they sell many products with artificial ingredients.

As I mentioned above, they claim that about 90% of the products they carry are natural or organic. This means that there are items peppered throughout the store that contain artificial ingredients, colors, and sweeteners.

This can make it really difficult to ensure that the items you are purchasing don’t contain artificial ingredients. Especially if you are new to reading labels.

Many Americans don’t realize how much artificial stuff they are eating. And when you are new to shopping organically or naturally, it can be really time-consuming to read all of the labels and decipher what is or isn’t natural.

Whole Foods makes it easy to find those items because everything in the store is free from artificial ingredients, artificial colors, and artificial sweeteners.

As a shopper, it can be time-consuming to read labels, especially if you are new to purchasing foods without artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, and preservatives.

That’s why Sprouts just can’t compare and one of the things that make Whole Foods Market a better choice.

To read more about why Whole Foods is so popular, just read this recent article.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is meat better at Whole Foods or Sprouts?

Meat is by far better at Whole Foods than it is at Sprouts.

Whole Foods has over 100 animal welfare standards that must be met before meat is sold in the store.

These standards don’t just apply to beef cattle. They also apply to:

  • Pork
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Goat
  • Turkey

If an animal EVER gets an antibiotic treatment, it won’t be sold at Whole Foods. They also don’t permit added growth hormone or animal by-products. Whole Foods also ensures that animals are raised, transported, and slaughtered humanely.

Because there are such stringent standards to the meat that is sold at Whole Foods, you can rest assured that any meat you purchase will be healthy and free of nasty additives.

Animals fed right and treated humanely are not just for marketing. They simply make better tasting, healthier meat. As a bonus, you can feel good that the cow or pig or chicken lived it’s best life before it landed on its plate.

By comparison, while Sprouts does offer things like organically-grown chicken and grass-fed beef, their overall standards, as with the rest of the store, are just lower and vaguer.

As a result of these standards, you can bet that Whole Foods has the best steaks.

Just check out this recent article to find out what, exactly, makes the best steak. There I talk about USDA grading and quality of meat and steaks at other grocery stores, too.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Did I answer everything you wanted to know about Sprouts vs Whole Foods?

Sprouts Farmers Market is a fine store.

They have modeled their stores with the intent to bring farm-fresh produce to consumers at reasonable prices.

Sprouts may have some prices that are lower than Whole Foods, but it’s important to look at the overall big picture. In many instances, they are actually more expensive. And despite presenting themselves as an organic, natural food store, they sell many products with artificial ingredients.

If you’re looking for quality meat, Whole Foods Market is definitely the way to go. Unless you are buying directly from a rancher, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any grocery store that has better meat than Whole Foods.

That includes chicken, too. Check out this recent article about why Whole Foods has the best chicken.

Just click the link to read it on my site.


Photos that require attribution:

Whole Foods Market by Tyler Cipriani and Sprout’s Farmers Market Ginger Snaps by Willis Lam is licensed under CC2.0

Jeff Campbell

Hi! I'm Jeff Campbell. I was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades. I worked in 9 stores in 4 states, not counting the hundred-plus stores I've assisted in other ways. I was a Global All-Star, a Gold Pen Winner, and won Top-10 Store (company-wide) 3 times in addition to Best New Store (company-wide).

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