If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a 5-Step supplier for Whole Foods Market, just ask our friends at Panorama Organic Grass-fed Meats. Mack Graves is the CEO of Panorama – a supplier of local, organic, 100% grass-fed, Step 4 (pasture centered) beef to Whole Foods Market stores in the Pacific Northwest, Northern California, and the Rocky Mountain regions. I spoke with him the other day about his experiences working with Whole Foods Market. “We have a very close, continuous and candid relationship with Whole Foods,” Mack told me. “And we genuinely like the people we deal with – it’s a very honest relationship. We talk two or three times a day and if a problem comes up, we work together to solve it.” So how did it all begin? Panorama and Whole Foods Market first partnered up in 2005. Mack approached Dan Neuerburg, our meat coordinator in the Northern California region, to see if he was interested in Panorama’s grass-fed beef program. At the time, Panorama had a natural program but Dan asked if they could supply organic beef. Mack and the Panorama team grabbed the bull by the horns and committed to achieving this – making sure the ranches and processing plants got their organic status, which is no small feat! Panorama began selling five head of organic grass-fed cattle each week to Whole Foods Market. The program became so successful that it increased to 48 head per week and Panorama was asked to expand to our stores in the Pacific Northwest as well.
But the story doesn’t end there! Two years later, Mack approached our coordinator in the Rocky Mountain region, Dave Ruedlinger. Dave was interested and wanted local supply. Once again, Mack took on the challenge and worked with his Colorado ranchers to create a local program for the Rocky Mountain stores. Mack explained that organizing a local program was not without its challenges. He started with one ranch supplying our Pearl Street store but then needed to work with his other local ranches to coordinate different calving times in order to ensure a year-round supply of cattle. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to develop and maintain these programs, but we have seen our business grow rapidly.” When I asked Mack what makes working with Whole Foods Market different, he responded, “I firmly believe that there is no one else in the retail environment that has such a visceral belief in the organic grass-fed movement and no one else delves into the verification process like Whole Foods does. Whole Foods makes sure the claims we make are true and I honestly don’t mind this level of scrutiny – I think it gives more credibility to our program.”
One of the reasons Panorama is so successful is that they connect to Whole Foods Market customers by offering product sampling in the stores. Mack himself has done hundreds of “in-store demos” and he also makes a point of bringing his ranchers to the stores as well. They usually do demos four times a year and he and his team coordinate with every store in the region. “It’s a lot of work but it’s the best thing you can do. When you talk to the consumer it’s great! My goal is to bring ranchers and consumers closer together. I feel that Panorama is the bridge between the ranching community and consumers and Whole Foods is the conduit to that process.” So if you live in the Northern California, Pacific Northwest or Rocky Mountain regions, next time you’re in your local store, check out some Panorama Organic Grass-fed beef. And if you’re not in those regions, no worries – we have partnerships with farmers and ranchers across the country. Just ask your store’s meat team what’s local to you. The more you know about our meat, the better.