Natural Food Shopping In Sarasota

By Gail Condrick

October, 2008

Buying organic foods that are healthy for your family is easy in Sarasota. Our community has many stores offering healthy choices at affordable prices. Are you looking for personal service, community happenings, atmosphere, tradition and taste, or the convenience of on-line shopping? Do you like a large retailer or the personal touch of a small store?  One of the many organic and natural food stores and service companies below is waiting to welcome you, their perfect customer, and you may even learn something new and have fun in the process. Here’s the latest news on what is being offered now for conscious eaters.

Looking for personal services and special products? Shoppers at The Granary located at 1930 Stickney Point Road, will soon find an expanded selection of supplements and gluten free breads, cookies, chips and other products. Kaitlyn Poppe, Customer Service Manager, says buying natural foods is important for overall well being as they are free of toxins, dyes and chemicals that go into the body and ultimately into the environment. The Granary staff pride themselves on customer service and a friendly atmosphere. If there is a natural product or hard to find item that you need, they will special order it for you by the case, and then the extra service begins. “We have one customer that we order a case of special teas for, we hold the case with her name on it, and then each time she comes in she buys an item from “her” case. That way we have the item when she needs it and she does not have to buy it all at one time,” says Poppe. If you like personal service, be prepared, staff members may very likely greet you by name at The Granary.

Do you dream of buying organic groceries and supplies on your computer at 11 PM and having them delivered the next day to your home or office? Try Front Door Organics, an on-line virtual store delivering groceries three days a week with a minimum order of $35 and a small delivery fee. The company has a full line of produce, frozen foods, and supplies that you can choose online. You shop, pay, and place your order and then wait for the delivery, even if you are not at home. The company says that the new delivery service is currently serving over 100 homes and hopes for more in the future. The target customers are busy professionals and families, or people in remote locations that can not easily come into a store. Front Door Organics takes the orders, picks the produce, packs the bags, and delivers in customized refrigerated containers. And, if you ask, they even place the food right in your refrigerator.

If you enjoy shopping on-line and don’t mind picking up your order, you can also try Green Door Organics. The company provides weekly baskets of organic vegetables to members in three sizes which you pick up at one of two locations in Sarasota and a new location in Venice every Friday. Prices range from $16 for a ½ bushel to $39 for 1¾ bushel basket and the fresh choices are listed for you on their website. Each week has a different selection of fruits and vegetables that are all certified organic in season Florida produce.  If you would like to see and buy the produce selections, visit the Green Door Organics stand at the Siesta Key Farmers market on weekends and say hello.

If you are looking for shopping, community events, and food tasting downtown, Whole Foods Market at 1451 First Street should be on your list. The store is known for its organic food choices and community outreach, a destination as well as a grocery store.  The keystone of Whole Foods is their philosophy of selecting foods and products that are sustainable and earth friendly, a corporate commitment included in their core values. The store on Main Street was the company’s first store designed to meet the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) rating system built and certified with green energy saving principles and even features the work of Florida artists. According to marketing director Nikki Heil, the Whole Foods Market customer is someone who cares about their health, the environment and their budget.

On November 7 the store will offer their Value Tour … Shopping on a Budget, a one hour monthly tour of the store that includes food tasting and an introduction to the stores private label products, Whole Foods Brand and 365 Organic Everyday Value. Shoppers can also attend one of the many events or discussion groups on community issues listed on the stores calendar. If you would like to make a contribution to a good cause while tasting a holiday buffet, Whole Foods Market will be offering a Taste of the Holidays on November 5 for $5 that will combine food tasting and holiday planning. All proceeds from the event will be donated to the School House Link to help families who are homeless and in transition and to assist the children in staying in school.

Richards Whole Foods is the oldest organic grocer in the area, in business since 1979. With eleven stores, and four stores to choose from in Bradenton and Sarasota, the chain specializes in bulk foods, vitamins, and supplements. In addition to the food choices, Richards is helping the environment in new ways as a Sarasota County Green Business partner. The store has eliminated paper bags and introduced biodegradable plastic bags for shoppers. If you like to shop when you have time, the store also offers on-line buying with pick up in store as well as shipping directly to your home. A visit to Richards means that you can munch on free samples of organic products as you shop with a new selection daily. Check the monthly calendar of events for special activities and tastings at the store closest to you.

Do you like tradition with environmental choice? Publix markets have been in business since 1930 with 12 stores in the Sarasota area, a grocery tradition for generations of shoppers. The company is no stranger to organic foods and packages their own products under the label GreenWise. At some stores the GreenWise products are in a special section, but as popularity has grown, you will more likely find them merged in with other products. Organic juices will be placed next to mainstream choices but under a special GreenWise logo for easy identification. Publix has even made finding these products easy with GreenWise flags and recycled paper brown labels on the shelves describing the products. On-line and in store patrons will find the GreenWise market monthly magazine printed on recycled paper that offers recipes as well as sustainable environmental information for all of your life choices. Publix has a long tradition of community support and was honored with an award from the Council for Sustainable Florida for its efforts. And, if you live near Bee Ridge Road, take notice, that building going up is a new Publix that will be built with green building practices in mind and meet LEED energy requirements, the first in the area.

Would you like to add elegance, soft lighting, and classical music to your shopping experience? Visit the new entry in the organic and natural food stores shopping choice. The Fresh Market opens on November 5 at 5251 University Parkway with over 350 fresh food items and atmosphere as well. This store will be the 22nd store in Florida for the twenty year old company. Randy Kelly, a Fresh Market Vice President says that the Sarasota store has been in the planning stages for ten years and that Sarasota has both the population numbers and the lifestyle to support another competitor. “We try to provide a healthy balance of an intimate experience with enough products to complete all your shopping needs at a reasonable price. When you enter the store you can see all the specialty areas and easily move to where you need to go. Expect to find the feel of a European grocery in an open and enjoyable setting complete with classical music,” says Kelly.

Customer service is also a high priority with the chain so expect staff to offer to help you when you are shopping or selecting local seafood, as direct contact with customers is part of their service plan. And, the new store brings good news for non-profits. The Fresh Market plans to become an active community partner in Sarasota as it has in other areas of the country, with in-kind donations and fundraising events to benefit local charities. As other major stores in the area, the Fresh Market has educational materials, email specials, and on -line shopping and shipping through their website.

For natural foods, organic choices, and community spirit, all you need to do is to visit one of these Sarasota stores to feed your body and support the environment. Conscious living has never been easier.

Copyright © Gail Condrick, 2008

Gail Condrick is a writer and lover of all things earth and ocean living in Sarasota, Florida. Write to Gail