109 Comments

Comments

Edward Kramer says ...
What a grand vision of social capitalism. Perhaps you should have a course of Ethics 101 and teach it to the Republicans! I admire a person who starts with very little and creates one of the best companies to be associated with-what a model for the future. The world is a much better place with people like you.
06/09/2006 7:23:48 AM CDT
Bella says ...
I am heartened that the CEO of a Fortune 500 would even bother to address issues head-on with would-be detractors. If only all CEOs would conduct themselves in such a manner!
06/10/2006 8:06:15 PM CDT
Jeff Davis says ...
after reading these few comments, I'm curious about this "discussion." I think it is a valid point that as large scale grocery stores go Whole Foods may well be the best at encouraging sustainable practices, and very possibly that perhaps that is necessary for organic farming to continue to grow and exist. I have no doubt that expanding the amount of organic acreage in general is a plus. Not having done the research necessary to have an informed opinion, it is hard for me to speak authoritatively on any of this and represent myself honestly. However, it seems surprising to me that none of the subsequent posts contain any hint of skepticism or disagreement with the letter above. I wonder if this is a matter of "natural selection" of who reads the letter far enough down to be able to post, or if perhaps contrary points of view are edited out. I would expect at least a little healthy skepticism from somebody - given that this is glowing praise for an organization, written by the leaders of that same organization.
06/11/2006 2:58:07 AM CDT
Art says ...
I appreciate your detailed and persuasive arguments supporting the efforts that your company has made for several years. When Whole Foods is compared to the other large food retail coprorations such as Wal-Mart, I do find it unfair and misleading. Unlike other larger chains, you do offer a certain amount of autonomy to your individual stores, allowing them to connect with local growers. That being said, I suggest that you have selectively supplied information that speaks to your best practises, obviously a public relations dream. You specifically mentioned your store in Hadley, Massachusetts, an area that I know well. In fact, I know several of the growers who supply your store. In most cases, those growers are pressured during negotiations to supply your store at artificially reduced prices, in order for them to move large amounts of produce. Several of those growers alluded to high pressure tactics imposed, and regret that there is not a local retail competitor to deal with. By the way, this is exactly the tactic used by Wal-Mart, and I offer the opinion that there is a distinct difference between negotiating fair prices and lowest prices. One is simply a good business practice, while the other stunts the possibility of true sustainability. I also disagree with your brief comments and opinion regarding co-ops across the country. While it is true that the co-op movement is no longer deeply involved in food distribution, co-ops as a sector are stronger than ever, realizing growth in their communities that organizations such as Whole Foods only dream of. While your organization allows individual stores to make local connections at their discretion, that is more often the actual mission of those 300 plus co-ops across the country. Co-ops serve their communities directly and often develop relationships with local farmers who might be too small to deal with Whole Foods, or unwilling to sell product at artificially low levels. Many consumers have started to look back to their communities for support and answers. They are beginning to realize the value of supporting local endeavors. Whole Foods does profess their support for community. Local co-ops are community. I don't think I'd be so willing to dismiss co-ops as irrelevant just yet While you speak of your growth of private label product in a positive light, co-ops are able to support second tier and local manufacturers by finding room on their shelves. Anyone can sell the top brand, often owned by gigantic multi national agribusiness. If not for co-ops and other independents, who will support the true competition provided by smaller independent suppliers? Your company has removed many of those companies from your shelves to make room for your private label. Right now, 4 large mega businesses provide over 70% of the food supply to this country at the store level. I suggest that your company's practices will only increase the level of imbalance and lack of competition, whcih ultimately is to the detriment of our consumers. Once again, I do appreciate many of the contributions Whole Foods has made. I merely suggest that all is not quite as rosy as you represent.
06/14/2006 9:20:09 AM CDT
Paul says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey, I notice that Michael Pollan has posted on his blog a response to your letter, which I think adds some interesting new ideas to your very illuminating exchange with him. (For readers, it's at http://pollan.blogs.nytimes.com/?p=28) I would love to hear your thoughts on his suggestions of concrete steps that Whole Foods could take to increase the amount of locally grown food sold in each store. I shop at your Union Square outlet in New York, and I would be delighted if more of the small farmers who sell their wares across 14th Street at the Greenmarket, and other small farmers like them, could act as direct suppliers to the Union Square store, so that I could buy their delicious produce even when the Greenmarket is closed. It would be a great boon for small-scale agriculture in lower New York State, and thus for our entire community, if the basement of the Union Square store was stocked mostly with locally grown goods. Mr. Pollan's idea of how Whole Foods could support -- and pretty much create -- an American grass-fed beef industry is also provocative. What do you think? Are you willing to put the company's resources behind such a plan? I think he's right that a commitment like that from Whole Foods would have a powerful impact. I write as a Whole Foods shareholder and frequent shopper, and as a fan of Mr. Pollan's work. I hope the two of you continue this discussion, and that you are before long able to extract the apology from him that he seems eager to deliver. Paul in New York
06/14/2006 10:55:28 PM CDT
Daryl Kulak says ...
This is a great use of a corporate blog. When an author like Michael Pollan writes something in his book that does not accurately represent a company, in this case Whole Foods, the CEO just writes a letter to the author and posts it on his blog. I especially liked the tone of your letter, not accusatory, just conversational. Then Michael posts a response on his blog. (I didn't get to read that because I'm not a NYTimes subscriber, but it's a positive step all the same.) We all get to see the conversation happening transparently and know what's going on. To say that I admire you, John, and that I'm a fervent Whole Foods customer - both are understatements. John, you, your employees and your customers are transforming commerce.
06/15/2006 1:03:41 PM CDT
CMT says ...
Mr. Mackey: I found your letter to be well thought out and well written. I enjoyed it thoroughly; as I did Michael Pollan's recent book. You neglect, however, to address many points of Mr. Pollan's, as do many of the other posters here. Foremost among all, you shy away from addressing the nature, or source, of Whole Foods organic chickens and organic eggs - perhaps the two most disturbing aspects of The Omnivore's Dilemna. Why? There is no doubt Whole Foods is a source of good in the often mass produced, industrialized, corporate structure of food distribution. Mr. Pollan, perhaps too criticially, makes that point. Your selective response (hey, our beef is good, as is our milk; ignoring chicken, eggs, any discussion of Earthbound Farms and Cascadian Farms ownership, Horizon's lack of pastoral quality) is Mr. Pollan's point exactly. As an above poster, the former WFM employee, points out, you are a corporation and your response, frankly, is the corporate one. Do I still purchase some of those products from Whole Foods - sure. At least I made the informed choice to do so. But the fact remains, your response does not tell the Whole Story - at least you realize, however, that there is room to improve. Perhaps with Horizon, which seems to be the antithesis of organic? Sincerely, CMT
06/15/2006 1:52:24 PM CDT
Therese says ...
I definitely feel that a company like Whole Foods, who reaps twice the percentage of net profits as Safeway, should have more outreach and low income family programs. If the company does feel stongly about their mission, and their mission is highly commendable, they should take an interest in bringing their food and knowledge to lower income families, the people in this country who really need it the most at this point. When an average grocery bill can be nearly twice as much as the conventional stores, I don't see how they expect that the good they do will ever reach beyond a certain demographic of people.
06/15/2006 8:51:13 PM CDT
Leigh Colette says ...
I second the question from the posting above, that is, are you willing to put the company's resources behind supporting/creating a grass-fed beef industry? This would be a powerful action, an area where Whole Foods could effect real change in our culture. If I had all the $$ in the world, I would personally buy up the CAFO's and take them out of commission. Both from a human health perspective and humane animal treatment perspective, CAFO's are truly evil and of no use to anyone. I used to buy Rosie's chickens from Whole Foods. After reading Ominvore's Dilemma, I have now sourced freshly butchered chickens from a family farm in Santa Cruz. It seems you are worried that Michael Pollan's book is going to direct market share away from you and to the local farmer, and you should be worried! Less of my dollars go to WF now - more to the local farmer. The Santa Cruz farmer told me that I am not the first person to contact them as a result of Omnivore's Dilemma! I suggest to you, don't completely forget the customers that made Whole Foods what it is today. These customers KNOW what they are looking for. I have to beleive that there is room to cater to the segment of customers who want "local" and "sustainable" while maintaining profit motivated business results that come with offering more industrialized organic products. I sense that the dedication to satisfy this market segment is starting to slip beneath the individual store's radar. But maybe you are more interested in indoctrinating non Whole Foods shoppers into the industrialized organic food chain, since that is where your volume profit potential lies? In any case, on a final postive note, I must also acknowledge my dependence on WF, because where else am I going to find organic olive oil mayonaise so conveniently? I shudder to think of ever having to walk into a Safeway again, and Whole Foods saves me from that fate. I love the Whole Foods environment and the selection of products. Has anyone noticed that the average body mass index of a mass/indstrialized grovery store shopper is definitely significantly higher than a Whole Foods shopper? I've actually done a survey. I digress a bit. My main, sincerest hope is that Whole Foods will get behind a cause like a grass fed beef industry that can compete with the CAFO's. Once people are educated, I beleive they will en masse pay more for grass fed beef even if that means eating less beef. People need to wake-up, stop poisoning themselves, and stop buying into a system designed for their long, slow, poor demise.
06/16/2006 12:41:08 AM CDT
David Kirk says ...
Come on John, lighten up here. Yes, Whole Foods is a great company (I'm a customer and a shareholder). Yes, Whole Foods has done a great deal to educate and lead Americans towards a better way to eat. But can you do more, absolutely! This letter to Michael Pollan is simply "majoring in minors" perhaps "Whole Foods doth protest too much, methinks". You taught us about organic and the industrialization that Safeway and Albertsons breed and foster, now give The Omnivore's Dilemma credit for taking us to the next level. Once the earth was flat then Newton taught us about gravtity, then when Einstein explained the rest, we didn't hear all those sour grapes from Newton, did we? Yes, I'll still shop at Whole Foods, we live less than 50 yards from your store on 4th Street in San Francisco. But now I *will* walk the mile to the farmers market at the ferry building for local products. Stop (or start, however you want to look at it) acting like a Luddite. And, yes to an earlier poster, I *have* read *all* of OD.
06/16/2006 12:41:35 AM CDT
Eric says ...
Art wrote on June 14: " those growers are pressured during negotiations to supply your store at artificially reduced prices, in order for them to move large amounts of produce." Assuming this is true, it is of course normal to negotiate price. The questions are the asymmetry of power and availability of competing buyers (conditions often devastating for producers) and whether low purchase prices translate into low retail prices (often not the case). I remain skeptical of do-good reputations. Starbucks built its on paying above minimum wage (gee, thanks) and training its employees (which is to its own benefit), but has apparently been ruthless in driving out merchants from desirable locations. It has also one of the companies deliberately using price gouging as a way to make people think they are getting value. (Another example is the selling of Stella Artois, a throwaway beer in its own country, at high prices abroad to give the illusion of premium quality.) In telecommunications, one has Working Assets long distance telephone service, which generously donates 1% of revenue to progressive causes but charges more than other companies and doesn't bother telling its subscribers when it reduces rates. (I had friends paying 25 cents/min when the rate had already gone down to 7 cents, so by overpaying 18 cents they had 1/4 of a cent going to good causes!) Likewise, I wonder if ethical buyers of items like coffee are helping the pickers as well as the owner-growers? It is good to read that Whole Foods is developing a line of lower cost products, but John Mackey's 60 Minutes response about the inaccessibility of his healthy foods to poorer people was exactly that same as Alice Waters's (Chez Panisse) during a documentary about her: The food is better for them and they just have to make choices. A real disconnect. Choice is just what poor people don't have.
06/16/2006 8:24:22 AM CDT
Robynn Shrader says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey, I read your blog post with interest, having just completed Michael Pollan’s book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I learned a lot about Whole Foods from your post, and appreciate all that you have done to drive an alternative paradigm for food and sustainability. As you pointed out in your post, in recent years the organics and natural foods cooperative movement has struggled in the U.S. We’ve mourned the loss of our cooperative warehouses and many co-ops that helped provide the foundation for today’s booming natural foods industry. However, I’m happy to say the cooperative movement is far from floundering, and we continue to promote the values and ethic at the heart of sustainable food systems. This might be a peripheral memory for you, but your keynote address at our Consumer Cooperative Management Association conference more than a decade ago was a very effective call to action for food co-ops. Your challenging comments and the subsequent success of Whole Foods re-energized our efforts. Today, 107 co-ops, with more than 133 retail locations, are part of the National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA). NCGA is unifying natural food co-ops — optimizing operational and marketing resources, strengthening purchasing power, and ultimately offering more value to natural food co-op owners and shoppers everywhere. I’d like to share a few facts about how food cooperatives are doing today. In 2005, our same store sales growth over 2004 hovered around 13%, with earnings ranging from 1.6 to 4.9%. Our stores report percentages of locally grown and produced food products from single digits to as high as 48% in season. Many of NCGA’s member stores facilitate local CSAs and farmers markets, purchase land for community growing, maintain trusts for rescue/preservation of farmland and regularly engage in fair market contracts with local growers. Nearly all of our member stores have extensive education programs to inform consumers about a variety of issues related to food, sustainability and well-being. I’ve got plenty of facts and anecdotes if you’d like to hear more, as in my view we’re doing great work to support local and regional agriculture. You mentioned that decision-making at Whole Foods occurs on a regional level. NCGA’s member co-ops are even further decentralized. All decision-making related to the each co-op — from sourcing and purchasing to operations and community giving — is made by each co-op’s board, membership and employees who live and work in the local community. Our community is proud of the contribution cooperatives worldwide have made to topics such as organic agriculture, fair trade, local sourcing, community support, animal welfare, and environmental and sustainable practices. Around the world, cooperative business models work extremely effectively. In particular, Europe leads the cooperative movement in most of the above practices. Throughout Europe, cooperatives (consumer, employee-owned or jointly owned by consumers and employees) are at the leading edge of many retail categories. Although in some ways this tried and true model has fallen short in the United States, through my work I see a great deal of support for cooperatives and how this business model can champion real change in America’s food systems. As our business interests overlap, I hope we can work together on issues of sustainability and agriculture. There is incredible power in linking that which is perceived to be “big,” and that which is considered smaller and local—especially when we share a common outcome: a sustainable food system and healthier planet. Real transformation of modern food production will take a system of many players and many business models, and I applaud your call to unite allies in your letter to Mr. Pollan. Incidentally, after seeing you on 60 Minutes, I believe we share an affinity for chickens. I survived an experience of consequence many years ago rescuing chickens from a processing plant during college. The specifics would be fun to divulge sometime over an organic, fairly traded cup of coffee. Thanks again for your leadership, for setting an example, and for continuing to drive the bar higher. My best wishes, Robynn Shrader CEO National Cooperative Grocers Association
06/16/2006 10:31:46 AM CDT
scott burns says ...
Dear Mr. Mackey, I am an avid fan of Michael Pollan, although I have not read his recent book yet; but I wanted to include a couple lines here to applaude your knowledge and efforts. Your response to Mr. Pollan was inspirational to me in many significant ways. Although I have only been active in food/agriculture issues since the 90's, (due to a local increase in large, often somewhat locally based supermarkets; and an increase in local pay through higher factory wages in the sixties...) I have studied the history of family and corporate farms enough to recognize a lot of truth in your assessment of the issues. I feel more comfortable knowing coroprations like yours exist. I currently live in a small town in the mountains of North Carolina and I am acutely aware of the lack of the Organic movement to be able to feed the local community if, by some divine intervention, all people cared much at all about the choices of their food and are more concerned with low prices. I am not even certain the local organic and truly 'natural' growers could provide those who often go to Earth Fair in Asheville (the local city). My partner and I also find ourselves challenged and we buy as much local produce as we are able; however, if I decide to go canoeing on a saturday morning I missed my shopping opportunity. Alternatives are nice. I am glad you have been working on such a model. Distribution seems essential. Your mention of additional distribution centers sound wonderful but how these are designed and how they can be incorporated into the local scene is equally as important. it seems with a new energy crisis upon us, costs of local organics could be kept reasonable due to less travel. This is an idea i think you expressed well in your response to Mr. Pollan. I will read Mr. Pollan's response to your letter again, I have already skimmed it and have noticed it seems unrelenting toward your current practices and challenges you to run your complany responsibly. It seems you are already there, although I am not as informed as I could be, I am now more informed and have some additional resources available to educate myself. Thank you for your time to add to the debate. I will keep growing and keep learning and, I imagine, keep eating, right up to the end. Scott Burns
06/18/2006 12:42:52 PM CDT
Batya baumn says ...
I appreciate that Whole Foods has a program for the compassionate raising of the animals whose meat they sell. However, I wonder about the end of life of these animals and whether they are slaughtered in the same brutal manner factory farmed animals are slaughtered, or is there another, less brutal way. Is WFM researching methods of slaughter that might some day be called compassionate?
06/20/2006 7:40:38 PM CDT
Jeb says ...
Mr. Pollen's response to this open letter is hidden behind a New York Time's on-line subscription.... capitalism making a profit on the sharing of ideas. However, we need profit to build the very publication systems (books, blogs) that in turn fund Mr. Pollen's salary so that, he too, can put food on the table. Let's hope it is Whole Foods. Thank you Mr. Mackey for your balanced employment of capital.
06/20/2006 10:45:45 PM CDT
Lorelei says ...
As a resident of the New Orleans area, I was so happy to find the stores open and operating quickly after Katrina. We live southwest of New Orleans in the heart of the shrimping community, and I'm very pleased to learn that you are purchasing Louisiana shrimp. The industry has been hard hit by international supply flooding the market as well as the recent natural disaster. We choose a 3 hour round trip to shop at Whole Foods, but it is an easy choice when considering the quality of the products and people!
06/21/2006 9:43:18 AM CDT
Saly Newman says ...
Hi John, I appreciate your comments and think they're well reasoned. However, as a customer, I find it excruciatingly frustrating to shop for what I want (organic, local food) without spending hours in the grocery store. Dawdling from display to display, reading labels and comparing notes with articles I've read on strawberry contamination and whatnot is inefficient (not least for your store, where I'm taking up space). I would like all "whole" (meat, cheese, produce) Whole Foods products to be organized by the distance the food has traveled. That way I could start at one end (the local end) of the produce section, pick up my basic local lettuce and tomatoes, then continue down the line and see if I want to splurdge (in terms of global impact, which I consider as strongly as price) on an avacado from South America. It would put us back in touch with our food, and be a microcosm of the journey that the food has made to end up in the store. And it would be self-explanatory and easy. And hey, if someone specifically wants to try something different and exotic, they can start at the "far away" end of the store - there's no moral imperative implied. Why not? Thanks! Sally
06/21/2006 11:07:56 AM CDT
erik anderson says ...
Just out of curiosity, how can meat from New Zealand be sold here as "fresh?" Can you tell us about the time it spends in transport and what temperature it's maintained at?
06/22/2006 12:24:25 AM CDT
colter says ...
Great job guys... Thank for you work...
06/22/2006 8:21:39 PM CDT
Norma Russo says ...
Dear John, What a delight to hear from you again. Thank you for this open letter, it clarified a lot, after I read Pollan’s book. The first time I heard from you was at 60 minutes interview, last June. I was so impressed with your simplicity and objectivity that I kept you in my mind as an example of a great man. My romance with Whole Food Stores, started a few years ago when my son –in – law got a job in one of your stores as a Chef. He loves it so much and every time I go to visit them, we have to pay a visit to the store (I live in a city that didn’t have a store until recently) As a matter of fact he gives me gifts only from Whole Food Stores, as a gift certificates or a regular merchandise. Since then I do read everything about the Whole Food Stores; I have your web site in my “favorite places” at the computer and of course I get your e-news letter all the time. Recently, I started a course as a Nutritional Consultant, and this passion for Nutrition, Organic, Holistic Health, etc was highly increased by seeing that it is possible for everybody pursue their healthy food habits in a store like yours. Sincerely, Norma Russo
06/23/2006 2:52:27 PM CDT
George Kalogridis says ...
John, I glad you addressed the "history" of Organics. It seems very few people have an appreciation of the long road that Organics has traveled. When It appears that those who rail about "Big" Organics never bother to do any research. As you remember the issue of letting Organics grow big was hotly debated in the 80's & early 90's. Back then the Organic community consisted mainly of small farmers. So the decision to allow larger operations was made by small local Organic farmers. If we areto change the way the world farms we must allow Organics to become bigger and bigger. How else can we prevent billion of tons of Ag chemicals from being dumped on the earth? There is always a market for local farmers. But what they need to succeed is information on how to market their crops. I did a training class for Organic growers who sell at farmers markets. My first question was how many of the 30 farmers in the room had a list of their customers. Not one hand went up. If you don't know who your customers are then how can you know what they want to buy? The focus should not be on local vs large Organic growers but rather teaching the local farmers how to leverage their talents and products for consumers, restaurants and stores in their region.
06/23/2006 3:30:50 PM CDT
Steven Hecht says ...
I have a question that John did not address in his section on Country Natural Beef. Is this beef completely grain fed, partially grain and partially pasture fed, or wholely pasture fed? Does the nature of the beef differ by region or by store? Why isn't the information regarding the nutrition source for each of your meat department products posted, like the fish department tells us whether each product is wild or farm-raised? Is it the intention to move your CNB line to fully pasture fed within a particular time line? If your beef producers are truly as small as you claim, that should be achievable in the near future.
06/25/2006 6:03:17 PM CDT
Scott Leonard says ...
First off, I'd like to say that I really have enjoyed most of my experiences shopping at WFM. I can truly say that shopping in the Boston, MA area stores really offered quite a variety of the local New England bounty of fruits, vegetables and sea foods. There were many quality choices available and it provided for a great shopping experience. I was also very lucky to have three stores within a 5 mile radius of my house. That being said I was fortunate enough to make WFM my “choice” for my family’s groceries. I relocated to South Florida last year and the quality of the Plantation store that I shopped in never was at the same level of the Boston stores. While the staple items were usually on par, the fruits, vegetables and sea foods lacked the quality and variety of the items I found in Boston. I have since relocated again to North Florida and sadly have no WFM to shop. I'll have to find an alternative for my organic groceries. I'd like to address some of the posts here about what is really going to change the organic shopping experience. Unfortunately for the majority of Americans, it will take a Wal-Mart to get the organic products to them, but I don't think that the small, local farmer will be able to afford the technology that a Wal-Mart requires to do business with them (i.e., RFID, scanning technologies, etc). So it will have to be larger companies like Earthbound or Cascadian to sign deals with Wal-Mart. But, the deals that regular companies sign with Wal-Mart are scary and there are major consequences for them when they do not supply Wal-Mart with what they promised. In regards to WFM, they have really done a great job in giving their shoppers a choice. Many people here are saying that "voting with your dollars" will really change the farming practices in America. WFM is counting on us to do that and one of their requirements for developing new stores is to put them in areas with a "large number of college-educated residents". By having highly paid professionals shop in their markets, they can keep the prices where they need to sustain their business model and profit margins. Unfortunately, struggling American families can't afford to purchase groceries at a WFM. Most families can't afford $8/lb for chicken breast or ground beef. My opinion is that sustainable, organic growing practices will never get to a point where the struggling families “choice” can make organic farming the dominant practice in America. It’s simple economics: the law of supply and demand. The reality is that the highly paid, college-educated professionals are the minority in America and we can’t subsidize the organic markets to the point that they can suddenly drop prices to where every American family can afford to shop there for their groceries. It will take a Wal-Mart to figure that out, but I’ll bet that we’ll see a lot of the small organic farms lose a bet with the devil if they take that route.
06/26/2006 9:18:22 PM CDT
Don Patterson says ...
As someone who has been eating organic for 50 years, I am profoundly grateful for WFM and the trailblazing work done. I also laud the spirit and positive attitude of the people who work at WFM in many places. The staff motivation is exemplary. I have shopped in many stores in many parts of the nation, and I have favorites, but I also believe you have a desperately big job to do to get above the current mediocrity, and much of this work is in your power to relatively easily fix. You are much better than other chains, but that is nothing to be proud of, and some, like Harris Teeter, are better than you in some things. Many are simply attrocious. Here is a list of some things I would like to see addressed: --incentives for employee education with certification --labeling of all produce as to place of origin, and if possible farm name. Much is but not all. --increased efforts to build the market for local suppliers; it is too easy to fall back on the regional distribution; perhaps local quotas can be set. --stop using fillers and thickeners like corn starch in store-made or regionally-made products; it is not a whole food. --start using sea salt in everything (soups; deli, breads, etc); it is a whole food, and ordinary NaCl is not. --stop cutting back on superior products in order to push inferior house brands, and stop even making these inferior products, because in the long run, they hurt people. A store named Whole Foods should not house brand anything not made from whole food. Refined flour is not a whole food. When you chose your name, you had to set a superior nutrional example to live up to it, and too often you do not do that. To fail is to become a hypocrite and a fraud. (One example of a discontinued product in my store is Alvarado Street Sprouted Wheat Tortillas. I have had them brought back about four times, and lately they have been gone again, apparently on account of a "regional decision." When I have to go elsewhere to get them, I end up spending $50 for other needs as well. Store personel know the Alv. Str. product is a big seller, but still they cannot get them.) --put at least some organic products in the deli, salad and soup bars, and label them. It is simply unacceptable for a store emphasising organic food to not require it in these departments. The hot bar in my store does offer organic options sometimes, but not enough, in my opinion. --the deli has products with too many ingredients that are not whole foods. --use quality oils, like olive oil, instead of Canola oil which is of questionable nutritional value at best and may cause health issues. Animals, I am told, are smart enough not to touch it. --stop using refined sugar and other refined sweeteners in anything; they are not whole foods. Replace then with whole food sweeteners. Again, you have to live up to your name. --you can do more to find organic sources of some products; if Harris Teeter has organic sprouts, organic Medjool dates, and organic shrimp and you do not, you are doing something wrong. You are supposed to be out in front. --Harris Teeter also has some organic products at far less than your price; Newman's Own Organic Olive Oil has been almost half your price for many months, and it is not on sale; Organic Balsamic vinegar is another example of a product where your price is almost double, though in fairness HT sells many organic and natural food products for a higher price than yours. --if other stores can do a better job than you do with bulk organic spices, you can do better, too --it should be possible to have at least one organic offering among the bulk olives---if someone were working on it. --the local family owned natural food store has been selling organic avocados for less than half your price for six months, and your price is often only for conventional, because you have no organic to offer sometimes. I have asked the other store if they are running their avocados as a loss leader, and they say, "No." This is far from a complete list of thoughts and ideas, but it is enough for a start. Others are working harder than you are to be competitive, and that is the most important issue. Too much of the Whole Food myth is not being backed by substance, that is the main point Michael Pollan should have made. The hype is greater than the actual performance, and that is in your power to fix---without great cost. As the market gets smarter, cutting corners to save a few pennies will not pay. In conclusion, I am not a shareholder, but my son is, and I would become one in the future if my standards of quality would start to be met. Improvements can be made in virtually every area of the store, but I see people who are resting on their laurels---and on an inventory that is not being improved as fast as it needs to be to keep up with leading edge demand. As a result you are falling behind relative to others. Stop building more stores until you get the quality up, and then publicize what you are doing, telling people why it is important to their health. In the long run it will help you do better. If you make sure everything you offer is as nutritious as possible as well as delicious, it will pay dividends. As a last point, two days ago, I bought some tabbouleh from the deli deparment at my local WF store. I was looking forward to it, because I had not eaten tabbouleh in a long time. I was willing to overlook the fact that it was made with too much grain and not enough greens (parsley and mint) compared to the tabbouleh I have bought at other WFM locations. Well, it was atrocious, because it had been sitting in the case for too long. The dominant flavor was ice box flavor. It does not take many experiences like that before people like me stop taking a chance on deli items. Fortunately, in this case, I did not buy much and I was able to doctor it with spices to overpower the bad flavor, but I should not have to do that. I know it is hard to manage these challenges, especially late in the day, but it must be done, because failures like this are the kiss of death. Freshness and quality is all you have to use to stay ahead of the other chains.
06/28/2006 7:27:20 PM CDT
Arthur Harvey says ...
Whole Foods has bought out the largest independent natural food store in Maine. This is a vital issue for many local organic farmers, of whom I am one. Next door to this is a Wild Oats market which has already made it clear that local farmers, with one or two exceptions, are not welcome. However, Whole Foods has assured the staff at their new store that they will keep their jobs, and continue to buy from local farmers as before. Time will tell about that; so far I have no indication that they will not carry through. On the other side, however, Whole Foods joined the chorus of manufacturers who demanded that synthetic ingredients be put back into organic processing, after the Court of Appeals ruled they were illegal. Kraft Foods and the Organic Trade Association teamed up to hire lobbyists who got the organic law amended to allow the synthetic ingredients back. They attached an amendment to an appropriations bill that was not subject to amendment when it returned to the floor of Congress for the final vote. For the details, see RestoreOrganicLaw.org
06/29/2006 8:25:01 PM CDT

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