Good Earth Market, the cooperative grocery store behind popular programs like Billings' farmers market and locally produced food, is losing market share and asking customers for more business.
Carol Beam, president of the cooperative’s board of directors, said the store has been losing market share as items once unique to Good Earth, such as organics and food without genetically modified ingredients, have become more common in other supermarkets.
“There was a point in time when Good Earth Market probably had things on its shelves that other stores didn’t,” Beam said. “Now, everybody has those things.”
There have been rumblings about the store’s well-being for months. Members of Mountain View Colony, concerned about the Good Earth Market’s performance, emphasized to The Gazette that the store was a source for Hutterite turkeys. The colony sells the birds elsewhere, but members worried about the market.
Former General Manager Perry McNeese, told The Gazette in early October that he had returned to the store to help it transition to new management after the first person selected to replace McNeese didn’t work out.
In a letter to customers Sept. 29, Beam cited two new stores in the Billings market affecting Good Earth’s market share. Speaking to The Gazette on Tuesday, Beam said she wouldn’t single out a specific competitor eroding Good Earth Market share.
The National Cooperative Grocers Association toured Good Earth Market’s region a decade ago and found that conventional supermarkets were offering produces once exclusively offered by Good Earth.
However, Billings’ two newest grocers are similar to Good Earth in their offerings of organic and natural foods. Colorado-based Lucky’s Market and Natural Grocers have similar offerings.
Good Earth emphasizes its commitment to locally produced food. The store has a commercial kitchen it makes available to small product manufacturers like Kenny’s Double D Salsa. The store’s farm-to-table program was one of the first in the region to be recognized for marketing locally produced meat and vegetables. More than 70 local food producers supply products to Good Earth.
The challenge for the market to become more than a one- or two-ingredient stop for grocery shoppers, Beam said. Good Earth is expanding its inventory to become more of a complete shopping list market for consumers.
“If each person who comes through our door would put one more thing in their basket, we’d be home free,” Beam said. “We’ve even done the math. If we could get each person to put one more item at $2.39, we would be in good shape.”
The Good Earth Market's annual meeting is at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday at the store.