Full Blogger Disclosure: I was provided with an Earth Fare gift card as part of this review. Of course, all opinions expressed are my own.
Thursday afternoon I headed over to the Fairview Park store and met up with P., who would be giving me the tour. I've actually shopped at this location before and am fairly familiar with the company's strong stance on providing healthy affordable options but I loved being given a more intimate understanding of the brand and meeting some of the employees (all of whom seemed to love working there and take serious pride in their jobs).
Our tour started in the little dining/cafe area where P. not only told me but showed me Earth Fare's Food Philosophy:
Earth Fare's name says it all: they want the items they provide to consumers to be as close to the earth and as natural as possible. Among other things, that means no high-fructose corn syrup, no artificial fats or artificial trans fats, no artificial colors or artificial flavors, and no artificial sweeteners (entire list of the food philosophy can be found here). Eggs are handpicked, chickens cage free, and the beef is grass fed.
Obviously one of the reasons people shop at stores like Earth Fare is because they are concerned about the ingredients and origins of the food they eat and one thing I really liked was the way the store handles certain dietary restrictions or food choices. For instance, when you are walking through the aisles, all items sitting on a shelf with a wood face are Gluten Free.
Likewise, when you are in the produce section, foods labeled with a round sign are organic while conventionally grown foods have a square sign. C'mon, how cool is that? No having to hunt around or reading the tiny print of nutrition labels. Earth Fare knows that these are things that matter to the consumers so they make it so easy for them to find what they are looking for.
Earth Fare is also a big supporter of local and family farms and offer what they call the 100 Mile Commitment. That means that products labeled as being local originated within 100 miles of that particular store. So every store is going to have some of their own local products. Then there are those items that are considered family products. These are items that are considered local (or within 100 miles) to another Earth Fare store.
Lots of their items are also from independent companies. While giving me the tour, P. frequently pointed out small brands that had been in the store for visits or demonstrations.
If you are used to shopping at more traditional grocery stores where you know all of the brands and products, a store like Earth Fare is going to be a bit overwhelming at first because there are so many new items that look so good. But how many times have you made a purchase of a new food and gotten it home and found out you didn't like it but here you'd already spent the money and were stuck with it?
Earth Fare recognizes this and therefore has a Try Before You Buy Policy. This means you can sample foods in the store before buying them. So when you're walking through the bulk bin area -- which was pretty big -- feel free to try some of the available nuts and candy!
I know these look like M&Ms, but those obviously wouldn't fit with Earth Fare's Food Philosophy. These chocolate covered candies get their colors from fruit and vegetable juices. They also have this really cool marble effect on the shell and taste pretty much exactly the same.
Okay, well, yeah, but those are bulk bins. They are practically sitting there waiting for people to sample. Here's the thing: that Try Before You Buy Policy? It extends to items in the aisles, too. See an item on the shelf you want to try but it requires opening a bag or a jar? Just let a staff member know and they'll open the item up so you can try it.
Earth Fare isn't just a grocery store, though. They also have a huge Wellness and Bath & Beauty section, too. Everything from make-up to supplements and all sorts of personal care items are available (I showed you the conditioner made from beer in Friday's post). They have a store brand of vitamins and while most people hear "store brand" and think "generic," in the case of Earth Fare, the company that produces the vitamins is family owned and has produced some of the testing mechanisms and manufacturing practices that other well-known pharmaceutical companies need to adhere to.
Think of it this way: if a company like Earth Fare is willing to put their own name on a product you know it has to live up to their own brand philosophy.
Over the years, healthy supermarkets and grocery stores have been given a bad reputation for being too expensive. Healthy eating in general has that reputation and it's unfortunate because it doesn't have to be true if you know where and how to shop. Earth Fare strives to make healthy food approachable and accessible but, most of all, affordable. To that end, not only do they offer comparable prices, they also have their Tomato Bank which allows shoppers to get points (which is then turned into moola) for shopping with them and they have a big coupon program. You can get coupons through email, the website, or even on your phone. Plus, to stay more friendly to the earth, you don't have to actually print out the coupons, either. Just show the cashier the coupon on your mobile device and you'll still get the discount.
Then there are the weekly specials and deals. I took my tour on Thursday which is Family Dinner Night. Not only do kids eat free but there are often fun activities for the children, too (P. told me they once cleared out all the tables in the dining area and did yoga with the kids. How cute is that?). Recognizing the ever growing threat of childhood obesity, the company wants to give families a healthy and economical dining out option. Other weekly specials include Good Olde Days and Burgers for Bucks nights which both offer vegetarians like me meatless alternatives to get in on the deals, too.
Like I said in the beginning, I've shopped at Earth Fare before but I had no idea how much the store offered its consumers. And this is only a small glimpse behind the Earth Fare curtain. It would seriously take me, like, a week's worth of posts to mention everything I learned on my tour. Like the fact that they have a huge prepared food section with lots of single serve packaged options. Or that their sushi is hand rolled daily. And while many of the foods are under specialty brands, they do have several more recognizable brands that you can find in regular stores, so even if you can't always shop at an Earth Fare you know there are items that fit their food philosophy at your local grocery. They also have a big in-store recycling program. Ooooooh, and of course there is the juice bar! The Fairview Park location I toured has smoothies while the new Solon store is going to have frozen yogurt (nomnomnom).
All of that being said, I didn't even tell you my absolute favoritest part of the entire tour.
Freshly. Ground. Peanut. Butter.
(For fairly new readers, I am slightly
I know, y'all are now so jealous I got to hang out and experience the fabulousness of Earth Fare. But have no fear, because they are so fabulous they are offering one reader of The Year of the Phoenix a $50 Earth Fare gift card!
There are two ways to enter, both done through Rafflecopter:
1) Mandatory entry: Leave a comment telling me why you want to win
2) Optional entry: Tweet about the giveaway (this can be done daily)
Contest ends Thursday night at 11:59 PM EST. I'll announce the winner as part of Friday's post. Good luck and happy entering!
Fine Print: Open to US Residents. Please check the list of Earth Fare locations to make sure one is available near you before entering ('cause no one wants to win a giveaway prize they can't use!). Giveaway ends Thursday May 9, 2013 at 11:59 PM EST. At the completion of the giveaway, winner will have 48 hours to claim their prize. Earth Fare is providing one The Year of the Phoenix winner with a $50 gift card. In exchange for my review I was also given a $50 gift card. All opinions expressed in the above post are 100% my own.
Love from the ashes,