Walter appears on CNBC's Mad Money with Jim Cramer

By Walter Robb, December 20, 2011  |  More Posts by Walter Robb

On Dec. 14, Walter appeared on CNBC's Mad Money with Jim Cramer.

Taxonomy: Interviews

A perspective on our online deal with Living Social...

By Walter Robb, September 21, 2011  |  More Posts by Walter Robb

This past week, our $10 for a $20 gift card offer on Living Social received tremendous publicity for being the first-ever national grocery deal and for selling out in record time. Indeed, the offer sold at an average rate of 30 sales per second and reached as high as 80 sales per second at its peak — on the way to selling out one million coupons in about 10 hours. For a veteran apron-wearing, bricks-and-mortar retailer like me, this sale was eye-popping testimony to the speed and power of the internet and digital world. And while I am admittedly biased, I think it also showed the appeal of the Whole Foods Market brand and experience.

The offer was also significant for a lesser known but no less important reason. Through the partnership with Living Social, we were able to link the deal directly to the site of our new Whole Kids Foundation, the nonprofit we announced this past July, with the big goal of improving children's nutrition and reversing the trend in childhood obesity. For each gift card purchased, Whole Foods Market donated 50 cents to the foundation. We have been talking about the value of natural and organic foods in the marketplace for more than 30 years, and with our customers' help have put close to 1,000 salad bars in schools over the past two years. Setting up this new foundation makes formal both our passion and our commitment as a company to make a lasting difference in the health of children. Today, nearly two thirds of kids in the U.S. are overweight, and one third is obese. Put that together with less than 20 percent of the 120,000 schools in America serving fresh vegetables as part of school meals and you can see the true nature of the upstream challenge we have with kids' health in this country.

Through a tab on its Facebook page, the Whole Kids Foundation let customers "vote" on the percentage of donations that would go to each of its three initiatives: salad bars, school gardens, or nutrition and cooking education for teachers. With the success of the offer, our customers guaranteed that Whole Foods Market will give $500,000 dollars to those efforts.

With this deal, we created almost 1,000 new "friends" and 300 new followers on Twitter for the Whole Kids Foundation, and our web traffic is up nicely. This only reinforces for me that many other folks out there agree this is the time to support schools and inspire families to improve children's nutrition and wellness.

So certainly, this deal was about creating customer excitement and driving traffic. But it was also about making people happy — with a nice surprise at the end. We want to demonstrate that business can serve the broader needs of society while it also serves its customers. Through the potential of collaboration with our nonprofit partners, the power of inclusion with our customers to help guide our decisions, and the possibility of combining the two online through this deal, last Tuesday was a new day for the Whole Kids Foundation and the children it serves.

Taxonomy: Partnerships