“Whole Foods, more like Whole Paycheck” is a phrase I have heard time and time again in reference to the popular grocery store. Whole foods is well known for their highly priced organic and fresh foods. When Whole Foods was first founded in 1980, it occupied a niche in the market. Not many other stores at that time catered to individuals wishing to buy organic and healthy foods or gluten free products. Back then, Whole Foods could afford to have higher prices, due to the lack of competition. But today, with large chain stores like Walmart and Safeway starting to carry organic options at lower costs, Whole Foods is loosing popularity. The store came under fire earlier this year, when pictures of $6 a bottle asparagus water went viral on the internet. The expensive product consisted solely of 3 stalks of asparagus, inside a water bottle. Although the company insisted that the product was a mistake, and had it quickly removed from shelves, the incident proved just how out of touch the store had become from their consumers. Stock in the company is currently at a 4-year low, and sales have hit a plateau. In another wave of bad press, Whole Foods recently announced that they were laying off 1,500 workers from various locations world wide.
In the hopes of competing with larger, cheaper stores Whole Foods is introducing several new practices. The first is a new way of labeling products based on how “Responsibly Grown” they are. This rating has been criticized because it isn’t as strict as the governmentally regulated organic labels. This “Responsibly Grown” label is used by Whole Foods to spotlight cheaper, non-organic items in the hopes of appearing more affordable. Whole Foods is also opening a series of stores that are targeted at millennials with lower priced foods that are not as environmentally friendly. All of this rebranding and compromising is surprising coming from a company that claims to be deeply rooted in their ethical values. One of the core values of the brand is, “sell the highest quality natural and organic products available.” As Whole Foods shifts from their commitment of selling high quality organic foods, it is unclear how successful they will be. The company has compromised their personal ethics, in order to be able to compete with other larger businesses and turn a higher profit. It will be interesting to watch how the brand and their values adapt as they enter a bigger market.