The market for organics is increasing at more than twice the rate of conventional food and nonfood products. Sales of organics grew nearly 12 % in 2014 with similar increases expected when 2015 numbers are released, according to the Organics Trade Association. 

The increase is leading to explosive growth of supermarkets in the Twin Cities with an emphasis on organics, including Lucky's Markets and Fresh Thyme. But conventional supermarkets are rapidly expanding their organic selections too. Newbies such as Hy-Vee, as well as Cub and Aldi, are enhancing their selection.

Colorado-based Lucky's Markets, already in 11 states, is scouting sites in the Twin Cities. Similar to Fresh Thyme, which had its Minnesota debut in Bloomington last year, Lucky's looks like a co-op but is slightly larger. In what may be a swipe at Whole Foods, Lucky's labels itself as "organic for the 99 percent." Its locations are about 30,000 square feet, about half the size of a typical supermarket. Lucky's stores also have separate liquor stores.

Fresh Thyme will open stores in Apple Valley on May 25 and St. Louis Park later this year with Coon Rapids, Plymouth, Savage and a U of M Minneapolis store after 2016.

Whole Foods isn't new to the Twin Cities, but its smaller concept called "365" would be. The compact version of its stores will debut in three locations this year in California and Texas, but up to 10 more are expected around the country in 2017. No "365" locations are confirmed for Minnesota yet. What is known is that a new full-line Whole Foods store will open in Woodbury in 2017 and a larger St. Paul store moved to Snelling and Selby earlier this year.

Hy-Vee, which opened stores in Oakdale and New Hope in 2015, will open stores in Lakeville (early summer), Brooklyn Park (summer), and Eagan (late summer) in 2016. Savage will open in spring 2017 and Maple Grove and Cottage Grove have opening dates TBD.

Cub Foods will open its new store in Oakdale May 10 to compete with Hy-Vee across the street. The new store will have an expanded organics selection. The SuperValu-owned chain that dominates the Twin Cities continues to expand the Wild Harvest organic line, now with nearly 500 certified organic items in 70 categories.

Costco is the presumptive king of organic grocery sales, according to BMO Capital Markets. Last year Costco was expected to sell $4 billiuon in organic products compared to Whole Foods selling $3.6 billion. The warehouse club continues to add organic items with sales on those items growing by more than $1 billion. Earlier this year it was announced that Costco purchased a building in Northeast Minneapolis for a small business store. Those locations do not typically carry fresh produce.

Discount grocer Aldi will open 5 new stores in Minnesota in 2016, including Cottage Grove, which debuted last month. Aldi is trying to broaden its appeal by removing monosodium glutamate, or MSG, synthetic colors and partly hydrogenated oils from Aldi-brand foods, which account for about 90 percent of its goods. The organics selection continues to grow, with more than a dozen items in produce as well as cheeses and grass-fed ground beef. Organic chicken is being tested in other states.

Trader Joe's opens a new downtown Minneapolis location in 2017.

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