Whole Foods Market started off with only 19 people in Austin (TX) in 1980 and 36 years later it has become the world’s largest natural foods chain. It has, indeed, approximately 430 locations in the U.S., Canada and UK with revenues of $15,389 million in 2015.
Whole Foods Market was born by merging two natural food stores, Safer Way Natural Foods and Clarksville Natural Grocery, in order to create a real supermarket that sold only natural and organic food.
Part of the success of Whole Foods Market is due to the fact that it is more than a mere grocery retailer that sells good-quality and healthy products. WFM is far more than that. In its Declaration of Interdependence the company states the following: “Our motto – Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet – emphasizes that our vision reaches far beyond just being a food retailer.” They look at customer satisfaction, team member happiness, improvement in the state of the environment and local community support.
Therefore, customers consider it as a lifestyle store. People who shop there usually are (or consider themselves to be) foodies, health-conscious, caring for the planet and for a sustainable future. Indeed, Whole Foods promote healthy eating as a way to take care of oneself and of the environment. On its website everyone can get tips, how-tos and thorough information for conducting a healthier lifestyle through food choices. There is a section for eating good food on a budget, one dedicated to special diets (e.g. dairy free, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan…), another for families and a weekly meal plan already prepared for you, just to mention a few.
Of course, this does not explain the whole story. In order to achieve such a massive success, WFM takes quality very seriously and therefore has strict regulations on quality standards. Its food is completely free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats. Indeed, WFM foods are “fresh, wholesome and safe to eat”. The company tries to promote organic and local food as much as possible, as a way to support not only our health and well-being but also local communities and suppliers.
One more thing that contributes to making Whole Foods Market such a desirable place to shop is its stores’ atmosphere. The company was able to transform grocery shopping into a fun pleasant activity. Shoppers can enjoy a cozy “farmers’ market” atmosphere while strolling in the aisles, looking at those inviting super fresh fruit and veggies, walking around the salad bars or choosing a healthy ready-made meal for the night. Employees are very friendly and ready to help customers, to give advice and to provide further details on products. The store interior itself, characterized by bright cheerful colors like green, yellow and orange and the use of wood, communicate coziness, freshness without overlooking modernity.
Despite the goodness of its core values and mission, Whole Foods Market has long been considered too expensive for the average consumer to the point that it was nicknamed “Whole Paycheck”. However, WFM has found a way to tackle this problem! In May 2016 it has launched 365 by Whole Foods Market: a smaller store concept, that although sharing the same core values as WFM, is a place “where value meets quality”. In other words, consumers will find healthy high-quality products sold at a more affordable price. 365 is not new to WFM customers since it is also a private label (365 Everyday Value) that can be found in regular Whole Foods stores, but now it is a new retail chain present in Silver Lake (Los Angeles, CA) and Lake Oswego (OR). The next opening will be at Bellevue (WA) in September. With this new format, WFM wants to “Make healthy living easy. Everyday. For everybody.” In this way, the company can easily broaden its customer base by attracting those who are health- and food-concerned but they are on a tighter budget. In those stores, shoppers can find the private label 365 Everyday Value and a bunch of other brands, all of which meet the company’s strict quality standards.
In the future it can be assumed that Whole Foods Market will continue to be greatly successful, given consumers’ growing interest for healthy and organic food and their eagerness to experience new engaging value propositions.
“I believe that most of the greatest companies in the world also have great purposes… Having a deeper, more transcendent purpose is highly energizing for all of the various interdependent stakeholders, including the customers, employees, investors, suppliers, and the larger communities in which the business participates.”
—John Mackey, Founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market