CHICAGO — Shopping for food in Chicago is becoming greener and pricier while retaining an independent streak.

Specialty or organic grocery chains including Whole Foods Market Inc. opened stores in the Chicago area during the past year. In October, Jewel-Osco, a unit of Supervalu Inc., opened a “green” store about a half-mile west of Wrigley Field that has environmentally-friendly features including a roof covered with vegetation.

Whole Foods and Supervalu are among several major chains expanding in the Chicago area even as the food retail industry nationally struggles to emerge from recession.

With its more than 9 million people and diverse demographics, Chicagoland remains a key market for big discounters, such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., as well as smaller, neighborhood stores.

As in past years, independent stores — those not part of national chains — also hold a strong presence.

“The Chicago market is experiencing a rebirth of the small chains, independent grocers focusing on the ethnic markets,” said Bob Scaman, president of Goodness Greeness, a Chicago-based organic produce wholesaler. “There’s tremendous growth. Whole Foods has really changed the landscape, in the city in particular.”

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods, the largest U.S. organic grocer, has 10 stores in the Chicago area, six in affluent North Side and South Loop neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, Wal-Mart is targeting poorer areas on the South and West sides. Earlier this year, Wal-Mart executives said they plan to open several dozen stores in Chicago, along with the one the retailer operates in the Austin neighborhood, about 7 miles west of downtown.

Large chains and club stores still have a dominant position in Chicago.

Dominick’s, part of Safeway Inc., and Jewel-Osco had a combined 248 stores as of the middle of this year, or almost 47% of the Chicago market, according to Shelby Publishing Co., a food industry researcher.

Smaller, independent grocers such as Strack and Van Til say they’re more than holding their own.

Mark Wise, director of produce for Strack and Van Til, said fresh fruit and vegetable sales are up this year, as a warm summer helped demand recover from a slow start to 2010.

Soft fruit sales “were just through the roof,” said Wise, whose company has 31 stores in the Chicago area. “We had a great June, July and August.”

Wise said his customers are expanding beyond the basics, such as lettuce, onions and potatoes, and buying more “impulse” items, such as tropical fruits and white asparagus, as the economy strengthens.

“Customers are still getting the basics,” Wise said. “But they’re starting to venture out, getting more confident.”