New Leaf Community Markets

In season, asparagus is displayed in the “Look What’s Local, Grown Within 100 Miles from Here” section of the produce department at New Leaf Community Markets, Santa Cruz, CA. PHOTO COURTESY NEW LEAF COMMUNITY MARKET

California retailer is committed to local, organic and the community.

Originally printed in the March 2024 issue of Produce Business.

Even before shoppers step through the sliding glass doors into New Leaf Community Markets, there is no doubt about the Santa Cruz, CA-headquartered six-store chain’s go-to-market strategy. Signage encourages shoppers to “Buy Local, Support Your Local Economy.”

Once inside, this message is triply and tastefully clear. First, fresh produce is the main department customers see as they enter. Farmstand-like fixtures display a feast of non-refrigerated, color-contrasting produce, such as tomatoes, avocados and garlic, while refrigerated sets are stocked amply with leafy greens, berries, and rows of colorful apples.

Second, multi-item displays are denoted with placards that read “Look What’s Local, Grown Within 100 Miles from Here.” Third, price signs on individual items are marked with the farm and town where the product was sourced.

There are organic shallots from Pinnacle Organic Farm in San Juan Bautista; organic artichokes from Lakeside Organic Garden in Watsonville; and organic strawberries from Swanton Berry Farm, in Davenport, just to name a few.

“We promote our large commitment to local and organic,” says Scott Wiggans, produce director. “Often, this is what we’ve picked as peak season or a newly arrived favorite that is displayed right in the lobby.”


New Leaf Community Markets was founded in October 1985 as a co-op named the Westside Community Market, aptly situated on the west side of Santa Cruz.

From the get-go, the retailer was a pioneer in the natural and organic grocery industry. It remains true to these roots, with a focus on foods better for people and the planet.

New Leaf Community Markets offer fresh, local produce on its salad bar.

In 2013, New Leaf became California’s first B Corporation grocer, a certification of a business’s social and environmental performance. This same year, New Leaf was purchased by New Seasons Market, a 21-store chain based in Portland, OR, with similar values.

In 2020, New Leaf and New Seasons, as well as Bristol Farms, Lazy Acres Natural Market, and Metropolitan Market all moved under the Carson, CA-based Good Food Holdings, owned by South Korean retailer, E-Mart.

Today, there are four New Leaf stores within 10 miles of each other, with two in Santa Cruz and one each in Capitola and Aptos. The other two are less than 50 miles north in Half Moon Bay, which opened in 2008, and northeast in San Jose, the chain’s first in Silicon Valley, which opened in 2012. Each store ranges from 17,000 to 29,000 square feet in size.

Major retailers in the market include Grocery Outlet, Lucky, Nob Hill Foods, Safeway, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market. Yet, unlike these national retailers, all New Leaf’s stores are along California’s central coast and near acres of the state’s fertile farmlands. There are also several mom-and-pop, ethnic (Asian and Hispanic) retailers, and convenience stores in the Santa Cruz area.


“We know that the well-being of our customers, staff and community starts with sustainable, locally produced food. Protecting and bettering our environment depends on the same. Farm-to-table all the way,” says Wiggans. “That’s why you’ll find so much California-grown, natural, organic food sustainably produced by farmers, ranchers and fishers in our stores, Much of it from within 100 miles. That’s how local ‘local’ is for us.”

“We know that the well-being of our customers, staff and community starts with sustainable, locally produced food.”

— Scott Wiggans, New Leaf Community Markets, Santa Cruz, CA

To support the market for smaller growers, Wiggans says the retailer uses a variety of distribution channels, from old-school direct-store delivery (DSD) to its warehouse nearby in Watsonville, CA.

New Leaf’s merchandising leaders curate a list of vendors and hand-pick the selection for both warehouse and DSD availability with department managers in each of the six stores, who then order based on their own store’s volume and need.

Scott Wiggans (left) is the produce director of New Leaf Community Markets, Santa Cruz, CA.

“On average, our produce departments contribute 16-18% of total store sales,” says Wiggans. “We try to carry organic over conventional anytime we can, and roughly 95% of what we sell at New Leaf is organic.”

Due to the chain’s strict definition, the assortment of “locally grown” varies seasonally, but can range from about 10% to upward of 70% of fresh fruits and vegetables for sale. “Geographically, we are lucky to be centered in the ‘salad bowl of the world,’” says Wiggans.

In addition, New Leaf’s “chop shop” offers fresh-cut organic fruits and veggies. Store teams make guacamole in-house that pairs well with locally made tortilla chips or with one of the deli’s warm, house-made burritos.

Other examples of cross-merchandising with fresh produce include fresh lemons in the seafood department, the retailer’s private label extra virgin olive oil displayed with tomatoes, basil and garlic, and single bananas and apples at the prepared foods counters to complement a meal.


While New Leaf Community Markets’ local and organic produce department offerings are the star of the show, the retailer also features fresh fruits and vegetables in other departments. For example, in the deli, shoppers can find one of the most popular dishes year-round, The Coastal Kale salad. This longtime customer favorite is made with organic kale, a variety of seeds, sunflower sprouts, and red onions, dressed in a liquid amino acid, lemon juice and olive oil dressing.

The deli case often reflects seasonal produce, from a citrus and beet salad in the winter to a corn and arugula or caprese dish in the summer, when the local corn and tomatoes are at their best flavors.

Beyond produce, New Leaf also carries its responsible sourcing practices throughout all departments.


In the spring through fall, New Leaf focuses its local and paid media efforts around the flavors of the season, and uses photography showcasing locally grown strawberries, tomatoes on the vine, or a variety of melons or squash.

“We have implemented a series of six-week printed offers that are mailed within a close radius of each store, and usually have something free from the seasonal produce offerings, like grapes in fall or asparagus and berries in spring,” says Wiggans.

New Leaf Community Markets, Santa Cruz, CA, is committed to local and organic. Placards in the produce department read “Look What’s Local, Grown Within 100 Miles from Here.”

“Through our loyalty program, Neighbor Rewards, we send out bi-monthly emails aligned with our sales cycles every two weeks.”

The retailer also offers weekly digital coupons through its Neighbor Rewards, which reveal consistently high redemptions, “showing that the New Leaf shopper sees our stores as the destination for fresh produce,” Wiggans adds.

New Leaf has also partnered with suppliers like Organicgirl, a fresh organic salad packer out of Salinas, CA, on several contests for the retailer’s customers. In these contests, New Leaf customers could enter to win prizes, such as free salad for a year, a $250 New Leaf gift card, or a free entry pass for Northern California state parks.

The retailer places QR codes in-store and links to the contest on its homepage, as well as in weekly emails and on its social pages such as Instagram and Facebook.


New Leaf Community Markets takes the word “community” in its name seriously — from working with the regional food economy, such as local farms and makers, to giving back 10% of its annual after-tax profits. Beyond this, the retailers’ Envirotokens program was an idea of one of its early customers back when the chain was a single co-op.

When customers shop at New Leaf and bring their own reusable bags, the retailer gives them a 10-cent Envirotoken per bag. The customer then pays it forward to one of six local nonprofits that New Leaf has hand-selected, with a focus on K-12 education efforts, hunger relief and environmental stewardship.

“With monetary donations often requested, we also get asked for in-kind donations, and fresh fruits and veggies at an event is often a popular one,” says Wiggans. “Whether it is bananas donated to local schools or supplies for fundraising dinners, the community has come to trust New Leaf for the high level of quality in our produce department.”


New Leaf Community Markets
1101 Pacific Ave., Suite 333, Santa Cruz, CA
Hours: Daily, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.