Whole Foods Shifting Back to Healthy Roots
By Tom Ryan
Over the years, Whole Foods
has dabbled with chocolate fountains, and imported sea salts
and truffle oil but it is now looking to shift back to its granola roots.
been these two dominant values driving our products over the years,” Whole
Foods CEO John Mackey told the Associated Press in an interview. “One
is food as health and the other one is food as indulgence. Those have battled,
you might say, for the soul of Whole Foods.”
Among the changes
the retailer plans to roll out in 2010:
- The product
mix is expected to evolve with health becoming the dominant theme. The
changes won’t be made overnight and the mix will still include some indulgent
- A heavier
emphasis will be placed on healthy eating and education. Teams of employees,
classes, books, DVDs and supper clubs will be added to support the positioning;
- Whole Foods
claims it will soon become the first chain to provide nutrient-density
labeling, indicating the amount of nutrients per volume of an item;
Whole Foods will also carry store-brand products for special diets and
back nutrition research, which it will provide to consumers.
points out that Whole Foods, co-founded by Mr. Mackey in 1980, was launched
solely around healthy food choices but the mix changed as a growing number
of gourmet food aficionados flocked to the chain. The downturn has crimped
sales of indulgent items across industries and Whole Foods has increased
its store brands and promoted lower-priced options in response.
At the same
time, young Americans are both interested in health issues and concerned
about obesity and rising health care costs. Through Whole Foods, Mr. Mackey
is aiming to position healthy eating as a large part of the solution.
“All the arguments
about health care is about who is going to pay for it,” Mr. Mackey told
the AP. “There is not any funding or strategy about how to make America
healthier. I think Whole Foods is going to take that challenge up.”
at Willard Bishop Consulting, likes the move. Demand for pricey, indulgent
foods isn’t expected to return any time soon and while many chains carry
organic food, none “owns” the health market. Establishing itself as the
health expert could even strengthen relations with foodies, who have increased
their focus on local and organic foods.
risk is not hitting this one hard enough,” Mr. Bishop said.
Questions: What are the pros and cons of Whole Food’s shift to focus
more on healthy foods and healthy eating? What guidelines should drive
any transition? Should other grocers make similar moves?