Friday, August 7, 2009

Whole Foods CEO: "We Sell a Bunch of Junk"

When Whole Foods began in the UK two years ago it was praised as a the center of the health food universe. But today the struggling US store's chief executive admitted that, right next to the organic carrots and bags of granola, the shops "sell a bunch of junk".
The comments came out of an interview in which John Mackey was trying to explain plans for the store to put more emphasis on healthy eating. There have been suggestions that Whole Foods has recently obliged consumer cravings for more indulgent foods.
He went on to say that Whole Foods was going to launch a healthy eating education initiative to encourage customers and employees to reduce obesity.
But Mackey told the Wall Street Journal: "Basically, we used to think it was enough just to sell healthy food, but we know it is not enough. We sell all kinds of candy. We sell a bunch of junk."

"There will be someone in a kiosk to answer questions, they'll have cookbooks and health books, there will be some cooking classes. It will be about how to select food, because people don't know."
His comments come as Whole Foods recoils from bad news. Jeff Turnas, who took charge of the group's faltering UK operation last month, said Mackey's words "had been lost in translation", saying that what his boss meant was that eating too many crisps or cakes even if they are organic is not the best way to keep healthy.
But the British experience has been an unhappy one. The group has seen an operating loss for the year to 30 September 2008 of $60 million, widening from a $16.52 million shortfall for the previous 12 months. Its parent company, Whole Foods Market Inc, has been forced to write off almost $83.42 million as part of the effort to establish a foothold in the UK.
Mackey said Whole Foods would attempt to rid its stores of unhealthy food, starting with a campaign to get its employees healthier, and would be going back to its roots in selling healthy food.
"Right now, if you work for the company you get a 20% discount card," Mackey said. "We're going to create incentives for our team members to get healthier."
Mackey said Whole Foods is going back to its roots of selling healthy food.
"Healthy eating went on at Whole Foods from at least about 1980 to 1995. Now we've had a 15 year run for the foodie philosophy. We are launching a reversal now. We will be moving into food as health."

In other Whole Foods news: The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) has urged Whole Foods Market and United Natural Foods, Inc. to prioritize certified organic food, support farmers and manufacturers' transition to organic production, and stop advertising so-called "natural" products as "almost organic."

Though Whole Foods and UNFI have continually cultivated an image of "socially responsibility," the facts are quite the opposite. The OCA and allies have chronicled numerous examples of labor abuses in the organic market, Whole Food's poor social responsibility record, lack of real support for farm workers, and mere lip service to support small farmers.