by Marion Nestle
Nov 8 2008

What’s up with Whole Foods?

My source of information on all things related to supermarket produce, Perishable Pundit, has an interesting analysis of what’s going on at Whole Foods.   The chain has just sold 17% of its stock to a private equity firm for $425 million.  What’s this about?  As the Pundit explains it, these are hard times for Whole Foods and this was the best of a bunch of unappealing options.

  • Foodaroo

    I wouldn’t get my produce from Whole Food. Alot of people are under the impression that the more you pay, the better the quality. And it should be. The problem is Whole Food does not pay its farmers or vendors well. Whole Food wants everything cheap but Whole Food wants to sell everything expensive. For instance, with organic apples, they want $.70/lb. but they want to sell them for $2.99/lb. How can this be quality?

    And if you take a look at the pdf below, you have to question how can Whole Food justify charging more than other supermarkets when it’s not even sustainable farming.

  • Court


    There’s a reason why it’s nicknamed Whole Paycheck ;). There is a 80,000 square-foot Whole Foods being built near me in San Jose California, and I think that’s the problem–they grew too big like everyone else. This will be 20,000 square feet larger than the massive Store they just built a few miles away in Cupertino and it’s almost a waste of space. While there’s more variety than the average-sized Whole Foods, its not equivalent to the amount of square footage, and around here, real estate is not cheap. All that extra walking space has to be converted to higher prices.

    By getting competitive against the chain supermarkets, they did do a benefit to those supermarkets by forcing them to start carrying organics and higher-quality items, but now that times are hard, I think that effect is going to bite While Foods in the rear as people naturally go to cheaper supermarkets (that now carry high quality items) in hard times.

  • Bev J

    I read about a month ago that Whole Foods was attempting to “rebrand” itself as more affordable. It must have just been PR because, so far, I have seen no evidence in the store of lower prices. Maybe, in the current economy, they will be forced to revisit their pricing policies.

  • LEH

    Oh, I find many items at WF very affordable and I shop there because I love making only 1 stop. They carry everything I like to eat and I don’t have to walk through the store reading labels because I know they have high standards. If you shop the 365 and 365Organics brands you can find some real deals, too. Plus, they do have good sales. Even in these hard times, my family doesn’t want to sacrifice our food choices and while some lower priced food does exist (Wal-Mart, for example) I still support WF and will continue to shop there and just cut back in other areas.

  • Scott

    I shop at WF in Boston and they are consistently lower in price on milk and bread, etc. than Shaws or other grocery stores. Do the comparison and you will see it.

  • Bev J-

    You’re not looking very hard. The 365 brands (organic and not) are very affordable. They’re on par with any of the other grocery store chains.

    Also WF usually has the equivalent name brand foods for cheaper than you’ll find in a “regular” grocery store chain. (At least here in the Chicago area).

    That being said sometimes their prices are *far* higher but that is not the norm there. Example: Alexia products are almost $1 or more higher than the equivalents at Target. Same goes for the Seventh Generation cleaning products which are way cheaper at Target.

    As always it pays to shop around.

  • BevJ

    The 365 brand stuff is comparable, but is not uniformly good – and it’s all processed. I’m talking about their prices on fresh foods – produce, bakery, meats and seafood and non-365 dairy. They have occasional specials in these areas, but for the most part are very high.

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  • Competition from other supermarket chains for the ‘natural’ foods, plus a rapidly declining economy means that there’s less money to spend on a wider selection of luxury goods. And WF just spent a wad of cash on expanding and buying out Wild Oats. That’s my take on it.

    Woe to those whose sole food source is Whole Foods.