Whole Foods Denied “World’s Healthiest” Moniker

whole-foods1.jpgIn 2010, Whole Foods successfully took on the name “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store,” trademarking the slogan on the basis of existing consumer sentiment. But they recently submitted an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to call themselves  “The World’s Healthiest Grocery Store” – a significant jump in status which could indicate plans for more aggressive expansion overseas.

Unfortunately the Patent office rejected the application, on the basis that such a slogan makes a “laudatory” and unverifiable claim. Papa John’s slogan “Better Ingredients, Better Pizza” was originally denied for the same reason. One reason the switch from “America’s” to “The World’s” might have struck officials as puffery is that Whole Foods currently has a presence in only Canada, Britain and the U.S. – hardly the whole world. They’ve also struggled historically to push into these overseas markets, where existing chains often have a hold on loyal clientele.

Whole Foods now has 6 months to update and refile the case for reconsideration.

To read more, click here.

Whole Foods Begins Testing Ugly Food

In the latest indication that ugly produce has gone mainstream, Whole Foods recently announced an upcoming partnership with Imperfect Produce to begin selling their “cosmetically challenged” fruits and vegetables in a handful of Northern California sales. This move is largely a test run for the huge retailer, but if international success is any indication, the trend may very well take off at Whole Foods as well.

Whole Foods already purchases this produce for their Fruit and Smoothie bars, but a recent Change.org petition helped move them toward test running larger sections of the store. Consumers who are drawn to the grocery store’s organic ethos but turned off by it’s prices may flock to the imperfect produce section, where discounts can be as great as 50% on items like blemished oranges and misshapen carrots.

To read more, click here.

Whole Foods, Whole Paycheck

Whole Foods is a leading grocery market in New York City that is imagesnotorious for its high prices. While many consumers thought the produce was pricey because it was really healthy or organic, in actuality, after investigation from the Department of Consumer Affairs, it has been noted that Whole Foods is guilty of overpricing their produce. Whole Foods has been charged with over 800 violations during 107 separate inspections since 2010 for inaccurate consumer prices. Recently, inspectors weighed 80 different types of items at eight different locations and found that every label was inaccurate with many overcharging the consumers. Michael Sinatra, Whole Foods Spokesman, notes that the store always refunds any items found to have been incorrectly priced and likewise “never intentionally used deceptive practices to incorrectly charge customers.” Whole Foods employees remarked that corporate is held responsible for these incorrect labels because it is ordered by corporate. While just last summer Whole Foods agreed on a settlement of $800,000 in a California investigation regarding the same problems, Whole Foods, now, is potentially facing fines of more than $58,000 in New York City.

To read more on the investigation at Whole Foods, click here

Whole Foods Announces a Whole New Concept

Popular sustainable grocer Whole Foods announced today that they are currently working on a sister concept that will provide budget friendly option for Millennials. The new concept will offer the same core values of Whole Foods, providing organic, sustainable options but with out the premium price tag. Whole Food’s co- CEO, Walter Robb states that their goal is to create a “uniquely branded store concept unlike anything that currently exists in the marketplace.”

Whole Food’s has often faced criticism for their high prices and have even been teased with the nickname “Whole Paycheck” as many cannot afford to shop there. Additional details about the chain will be released to the public before Labor Day and sources say that the new chain has the potential to be just as big as the original Whole Foods concept.

Trends in the industry show that healthy is what consumers want and companies are willing to do whatever it takes to get customers in the door. As we previously posted earlier in the week Panera Bread joined the vast list of food companies vowing to clean up their menus. Operations are removing artificial ingredients from their menus, sourcing food that is free of GMO’s and introducing healthier options.

To read more about Whole Food’s new concept, click here

Grocery Stores As Social Destinations

Given that more and more grocery store customers are turning towards delivery services, Whole Foods has decided to add in-store dining and bar options. In the Chicago area, Whole Foods is undergoing a six-store expansion. President of Whole Foods’ Midwest region, Michael Bashaw, states,“Simply put, we’re looking for ways to make the places more appealing, if bricks-and-mortar (grocers) are going to survive, they must offer a compelling experience to customers.”

Whole Foods will be partnering with an outside operator, Raw Foods, to open an in-store location that features branded  raw foods and vegan dishes. There will also be a full-service bar and an expanded coffee stand that will hopefully cater to neighborhood residents and workers. Whole Foods is strongly attempting to diversify its supermarkets away from being solely a place to shop to more of a social destination.

To read more about the Whole Foods six store makeover in Chicago area, click here.

Food Startup Incubators in NYC

The Hot Bread Kitchen Incubator is a large space located in the neighborhood of East Harlem in Manhattan founded by Jessamyn Rodriguez. Hot Bread Kitchen runs a part of it’s operations by renting a more affordable kitchen space to food concepts that could benefit from a kitchen space without paying high commercial space rents. Hot Bread Kitchen helps different food startups tremendously to get their business off the ground. For example, Paula Barbosa prepares her Brazilian sweets, Brigadeiros, out of the HBK and sells most of her products online and in select food markets. Barbosa explains that after the Times gave her business, My Sweet Brigadeiro, a great review she found herself in a position where she was struggling to keep up with demand: “It was crazy – we were a fad and we weren’t ready…We didn’t even have a credit card machine and we were saying ‘yes’ to everybody. So we decided to rent kitchen space and do this the proper way.”

The other part of HBK’s business besides renting kitchen space to food startups is a bakery. The incubator employs roughly 50 people across both the incubator and bakery sections. The breads that are produced at the kitchen are then sold at various retailers and markets in New York including Whole Foods. Ms Rodriguez explains that besides the ability for the different startups to network and meet new people, the atmosphere in the kitchen is always busy and this is encouraging; “It’s inspiring for entrepreneurs, to see this constant production and delivery schedule. They get the message that if all goes well, they could end up like this.”

There is another similar food incubator run in Long Island City by Mr. Michael Schwartz called the Organic Food Incubator (OFI). Mr. Schwartz began his own business, BAO Food and Drink and decided to create the OFI to provide food startups with the resources and advice he wish he had when he launched BAO from recipe development to legal advice. The OFI centre is currently incubating 60 companies. One of the successful ‘graduates’ of the center, Ariel Glazer from Kombrewcha teas, states: “When you start a business you don’t know what you’re getting into, and if you need lots more time to develop the product it can kill your business…By doing it through an incubator, you don’t need to put up initial capital.”

To read more about the OFI incubator in LIC and the HBK incubator and bakery in East Harlem, click here.

 

Organic Food Boom in Retail

According to the Organic Trade Association, the growth in sales of organic products in the U.S. has rebounded compared to the slow to 4.6% in 2009. In 2013 sales rose 11.5 percent to $35 billion. Organic food (and nonfood) products used to be sold primarily in specialty natural shops until Whole Foods Market essentially took over the market. Mainstream consumers discovered natural food products and chains such as Costco, Kroger and Safeway jumped on board. The sales of organic products at Costco doubled in two years to roughly $3 billion.

The organic/natural food industry is now preparing for the U.S.’s largest grocer to expand its organic food selection. Yes, Wal-Mart will be promising not only to expand the selection of organic products but to sell them at the same prices as nonorganic food. Typically organic food costs at least 25% more than regular food products, so Wal-Mart’s plan is to use Wild Oats as it’s main supplier. Wild Oats was bought from Whole Foods by Anthony Zolezzi and Tim Luberski. Soles states that his goal was “to democratize organic to the masses,” and now Wal-Mart accounts for more than 90 percent of Wild Oats’ business.

To read more about the boom in organic foods in retail in the U.S., click here