Whole Foods Markets are a true American success story. This market has seen great success, even in tough economic times, promoting fresh and organic products, along with lots of great specialty items.
Whole Foods is a company based in Austin, Texas. They currently operate 284 stores, 273 of which are in the US. They are expanding abroad, and currently have six stores in Canada and five in the UK.
Whole Foods specializes in organic and natural products. They strive to find the freshest foods, and buy many of their items from local farmers during the growing season. They also sell some commercially produced foods, but organic and natural is their specialty.
Whole Foods is consistently ranked as one of the most “socially responsible” businesses and is also placed third on the EPA’s list of Top 25 Green Power Partners.
So, how does Whole Foods do it? Well, first of all, Whole Foods has their own set of standards for natural food, and they’re a bit higher than the average standards. In order to qualify for Whole Foods, foods must free of hydrogenated fats as well as artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, preservatives, as well as other ingredients listed on their own “unacceptable” list.
Whole Foods does not carry eggs or foie gras from hens confined to battery cages, because of animal cruelty concerns. They also do not sell meat or milk from cloned animals or their offspring, even though this is approved by the FDA.
These standards allow Whole Foods to appeal to the buyer who wants all natural, green and socially responsible food. People feel good when they shop at Whole Foods because of this appeal.
On the other hand, Whole Foods offers such a wide range of products that people can do all their grocery shopping there. Being a “one stop shop” is one of the keys to success in the grocery industry. People simply don’t want to take the time to go to multiple stores to get the groceries they need. With Whole Foods, they can get everything they need at one stop – eliminating the need to shop for fresh fruits and veggies (here are some great juicer recipes) at the farmer’s market and then going to the regular grocery store for everything else.
In recent years, Whole Foods has come under fire for getting away from their natural foods roots. In fact, in 2009 their CEO acknowledged that “they sell a lot of junk” and made a commitment to taking the company back to their natural roots.
They have also come under fire for not adhering to their own standards with all products. However, this criticism refers to some of the cosmetic products they carry. Their company has pointed out, however, that the USDA does not regulate natural cosmetic products and that their own standards are also meant to apply to food, not to cosmetics. For example, they point out that some synthetic or petroleum derived products that are not permitted in organic foods are found in some of the shampoos and lotions they carry.
In short, Whole Foods has found the right balance between being a full service grocery provider and being socially responsible and organic. They jumped on the organic and natural food train early on and rode it to huge success with this combination.
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