ALBANY -- Sprouts Farmers Market, which plans to build a store in Albany as part of the University Village development, went public on Aug. 1, with an initial public offering. Shares were priced by the company at $18 but closed that day at $40.11, a 122 percent gain.
It was the most successful IPO on Wall Street in quite some time. LinkedIn debuted in May 2011, with its stock rising by 109 percent on the first day.
Business stories called the increase in price a vote of confidence for the natural and organic food business. The company touts the fact that it offers food at a lower price than Whole Foods Market. President and CEO Doug Sanders told bizjournals.com, "We are laser-focused on the value proposition in natural foods. It's what we do and what we've always done."
However, investment site The Motley Fool questioned whether Sprouts will be able to compete with Whole Foods. Among the reasons cited is Sprouts' aggressive campaign to open more stores. The company currently has about 160 stores in eight states.
"Sprouts looks like an opportunistic 'poser' company trying to capitalize on the growing trend of healthy living and conscious consumerism," Alyce Lomax wrote for The Motley Fool.
Locally, in the meantime, an online petition on change.org is being circulated to convince Sprouts to pull out of the Albany project. The petition, addressed to several Sprouts executives including Sanders, reads in part:
"We have been fighting for decades to preserve this land as agricultural land and an urban community farm. This is one of the last large plots of farmland in our urban area, and its soil fertility has been fed by the rising and receding cycle of two creeks which have deposited a wealth of nutrients over millennia. The land's use as a farm, greenhouses and/or low-impact housing over the last century have protected it from the lead and arsenic contamination that makes most urban soil unsafe for food production."
The petition closes by saying the undersigned will boycott Sprouts unless the company withdraws from the project.
The current project is in the planning process and will come before the Planning and Zoning Commission at least one more time before a vote to approve it is held.
The city approved a prior version of the project just over a year ago. However, two lawsuits and a referendum led original anchor tenant Whole Foods Market to pull out of the project. Sprouts then replaced it.