Saturday, January 13, 2007,6:46 PM
The Future of Whole Foods
So there is this part of me that wishes I could do all my shopping at Whole Foods. Yes, the closest store is an hour away and the prices are well, insane, but the lure of the wide variety of organic food and healthy options is appealing. I know my local Jewel carries some organic stuff (but do I really want organic oreos???) and a few more varieties of fruits and veggies (don't even ask how long it took the check out guy to actually believe that the bunch of rainbow swiss chard I brought up was actually for sell at his store...).

So I was interested when I came across this article about the decline of Whole Foods' stock. Apparently the trend for big box retailers to sale some organic items (Walmart)is hurting the specialty stores like Whole Foods. As food that is healthy, environmentally friendly, and interesting becomes more mainstream other stores are catching on and Whole Foods declines. If I can pay $5 for a half gallon of organic milk at Whole Foods, $4.25 at Jewel and $3.79 at Walmart (and even less at Trader Joes, but that's another story) - I'm going to go for the same product at the lower cost.

So if Whole Foods is to survive perhaps they need to create a new specialty market. They are losing the vegans, health nuts, and foodies to the cheaper stores, so what if they try to cater to the ethically minded. If they decided to carry "just food" - food that has been fairly traded, where the workers were paid decent wages and were given respectful, humane environments to work in - they would seriously corner the market. (and maybe being ethical might just begin to catch on as well - imagine that). But it would take a Whole Foods that caters to those who are predisposed to think of food as more than just food to start the trends. Down the road (in true freaknomics fashion) the masses might then copy the elite. Wouldn't it me amazing if the rich and intellectual were setting the good moral trends for our society?

I like Whole Foods, I wish I could shop there. Who knows what path they will take, but at least I gave my oh so significant suggestion.


posted by Julie at 6:46 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 1/13/2007 10:17:00 PM, Blogger Monaca

    I support this suggestion. You should write a letter.

  • At 1/14/2007 11:14:00 AM, Blogger Trissa

    You know, at one time, before Wal-mart become a mega corporation, they actually held those values. It's my understanding that when the original owner started the chain, he only sold US made products. If this is true, it's a good example of how when money becomes the bottom line, all morals, values and ethics fly out of the window.

  • At 1/15/2007 06:12:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    When money becomes more important than people we do have seriously messed up values. But "made in the USA" doesn't mean that the workers were paid a fair wage or treated decently and respectfully. A label can claim "made in the USA" even if it was made in a sweatshop by child laborers on a US held territory (without US laws). But even in the actual states many workers are paid unfair wages and receive harsh treatment because the employer knows they are illegals and can therefore take advantage of them (although usually its not as bad as how they would be treated in the US owned factory built in their own country). Its a sick system.

  • At 1/15/2007 11:21:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    I like the way you think Julie :)
    I do most of my shopping at Trader Joes, but I buy a few specialty items at Whole Foods, and next time I go, I I'm going to mention your idea on their bulletin board and maybe get an address for writing a letter. Heck, we could make a form letter, stick it on emerging women and get a few people to send them in!

  • At 1/16/2007 09:54:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    If Whole Foods doesn't go for it maybe someone needs to start a whole new grocery chain. I think "Just Food" would be a great name!

    Any budding entrepeneurs reading this want to take it on?

  • At 1/25/2007 03:02:00 PM, Anonymous tatiana

    It would be impossible for a chain store to sell "just" food. Because a significant part of what makes food just has to do with where it comes from. Food that is shipped from hundreds or thousands of miles away is not just. A chain almost always means selling the same goods in a lot of different places. It is impossible to have both a chain and local food.

    This is one reason actually that I find Whole Foods to be far more ethical than Trader Joe's. Whole Foods offers much more information about where their products come from, as well as options of small companies and more local products. Trader Joe's private labels the vast majority of their products, which means they are more than likely just distributing "Big Organic"... from large corporate farms, food that is produced using the same destructive industrial agricultural techniques, only in a way sneaky enough to get organic certified (i.e. no petro-chemicals directly applied to food).

    No, a "just food" chain store wouldn't work. The very best option is for congregations/communities to balance between a) growing their own food, b) connecting with local farmers and farmers markets, and c) seeking as much throwaway and leftover food as possible (yes, this may mean dumpster diving).

    I have a food manifesto of sorts that I recently wrote for a conference-type thing we held at Reba. If you are interested in reading it, let me know and I can email it to you (!


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