The national trend of smaller, greener grocery stores has only taken root in Little Rock recently. The Fresh Market and Whole Foods set up shop here over the past few years, and today Natural Grocers makes its Little Rock debut. This is the 108th location for the Colorado-based grocery company and the second in Arkansas (the other is in Fayetteville). When I asked what sets Natural Grocers apart from its competitors, management immediately pointed me to the produce section.
“Our produce department is 100-percent organic,” says Sarah Edward, marketing associate with Natural Grocers. “There’s no threat of cross-contamination, there’s no possibility that we might be mislabeling something and you might accidentally buy a conventionally raised piece of produce, because we only allow 100-percent organic produce to come into this store.”
Natural Grocers emphasizes the healthy aspects of its products, from produce and dairy to its meat department and even its beauty section. Despite its small size, Natural Grocers has a full line of toiletries, makeup, cleaning supplies and home goods. The store also features a robust selection of dietary supplements, from standard multi-vitamins to various forms of protein powder.
“We are trying to be a one-stop shop for your health-oriented grocery needs,” says Edward. “We have a full supplement section, we have a full health and beauty section, we have a full grocery store. For healthy living, you don’t have to go anywhere else.”
Natural Grocers is also working to tap into Little Rock’s group of local producers. At grand opening, the store will only feature two Arkansas products: Great Fermentations from Winslow and My Brother’s Salsa in Bentonville. However, the store is working on developing relationships with producers to bring in more local products. General manager Jason Eldridge says he hopes to have a full Arkansas lineup very soon.
“We have a list of 15-20 local vendors our office is working on to bring in the store in the next couple of weeks,” says Eldridge. “There are some we know who already have UPCs who are operating and can bring product in or ship it to us and are bonded and licensed and insured, which is a necessity to sell products in a retail grocery store. So we know we’re going to be able to get some of those.”
Natural Grocers’ work with local products doesn’t stop there. The store only sells products that meet its somewhat strict standards, which means some producers might not make the cut. For those, Natural Grocers will work with them to help them meet those standards so their products can be sold at the grocery store. Edward says those standards are in place to keep Natural Grocers as eco-friendly as possible.
“We sell only dairy and meat that comes from pasture-raised cattle and poultry,” says Edward. “Pasture-raised cattle is more environmentally sustainable, because their methane release is lower because they’re eating from the pasture as opposed to being confined to dairies. So it’s not just the health of the cattle, but it’s also the health of the planet.
“Environmental impact, health impact, community impact, these are all things that are really important to us.”
9210 Rodney Parham Rd.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Sunday