What The Heck Happened To Wholefoods Market?

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Origins

It’s very disappointing-this change I see in the Wholefoods Market. I don’t think I’m the only one who has noticed this, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is upset about it. You see, it used to be that you could go to Wholefoods Market when you wanted something different…unique, and even continental; but not anymore. Back then, Wholefoods pretty much cornered the market on providing more natural options and healthier choices.

They not only cornered the market both literally and figuratively, but they did it nationwide. If I remember correctly, the first person I heard mention Wholefoods Market was Howard Stern. I used to listen to him years ago in my late 20's. He still is entertaining in his way, but I don’t listen to him now. My tastes have changed and mellowed a bit as I matured.

Nevertheless, I remember him mentioning this business; and if I’m remembering correctly, it was because his cousin was the originator of these stores. When I finally went into the one that was built in my county, I was really impressed with the array of different foods from many small farms and organizations that kept it natural and unprocessed.

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Great Variety

And, while at first, I thought it was a bit pricey; as I became more educated about more natural choices, and of course, after I was holistically educated as a massage therapist; my whole perception of it changed. Not to say that some things there aren’t still a bit on the pricey side, but I could see that the majority was maybe $1-2 more than you’d pay in other grocery stores, plus it was more natural and unprocessed, which is a healthier choice.

I soon became an avid fan of the store, and was happy to see 2 more stores open at either end of the county. I love their extremely fresh produce. Everything is so vibrant with color in the fruit and vegetable department. All the fresh flowers are gorgeous and smell so good as you come in the front door. The vitamin shop is great, plus it smells so sweet due to the incense and perfumed oils for diffusers, and perfumed body products they have available; along with a great array of natural supplements to improve health.

They also have a section with a large variety of nuts, seeds, granola and the like that you can select and purchase by the pound from large wall bins in the aisles. They even introduced us to a variety of different potato chips; blue corn, which my son loves now, and other natural chips, like sweet potato and other varieties.

The Plantation Store

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From Delightful To Boring

Until recently, I never really checked out the bar with the olives, until I tried some Mezzetta Castelvetrano Whole Green Olives from Costco and fell in love! These olives are bottled as they are picked for maximum freshness; at least, that’s what the Costco rep. told me when I inquired about them. When Costco stopped carrying them, I found them at Wholefoods. Oh happy day! They are the best tasting olives I have ever tried!

I also discovered a few different varieties of sheep and goat cheese at their cheese bar. Plus, I discovered fig spread there. Awesome! Their pastry section is pretty good too; however, I think it was better before they added the specialty cookie section.

So what has gotten me up in arms? What’s gotten me so upset? I generally love this store, but I am very disappointed with the direction they seem to be going in now. What am I talking about? It’s their fresh food bar, which they still have labeled as “International Cuisine,” and their deli counter. I actually don’t know if they refer to it as a deli counter, but it is the place where all the various dishes are encased in glass, and there are clerks waiting on people to serve them pounds of whatever dish they choose.

Their soups in all sections are the same, and that’s good, although personally, they could get rid of the southwestern soups/chilli stuff, but that’s neither here nor there. What’s really eatin’ my craw is the fact that they have taken the hot food bar, labeled as “International Cuisine,” and turned it into the Hometown Buffet! They have eliminated all the interesting and tasty “International Cuisines,” and replaced them with typical, boring American fair; Mac’ n cheese, BBQ beef, Fried/BBQ Chicken, and similar boring dishes!

The Difference

Even the deli counter food is always the same stuff! It never changes anymore! It’s like they are trying so hard to compete with Fresh Market, that they’ve adopted Fresh Market’s boring approach to their deli market! Fresh Market also has the same foods every day in their deli. It’s soooo boring! I used to visit their store at first when they came to town, because again, it was something new and different.

But the one thing I discovered about their store that put me off, and sent me back to Whole Foods, was the difference between them. Fresh Market is not the same as Whole Foods, because they cater to people who want specialty food items, but these foods are not necessarily a whole food or even natural, and many of their products contain things like high fructose corn syrup. You still have to read labels coming into that store, because they are not a natural food store like Whole Foods, so it is a different market.

So why does it seem like Whole Foods is changing what they do best to compete with Fresh Market? There is no competition as far as I’m concerned. Whole Foods used to always carry natural foods, fresh foods, and produce from local farms. Specialty food items don’t always come from local sources. Again, these are two different markets.

Therefore, in my book, Whole Foods has no reason to worry about Fresh Market, and most certainly, they need to stop trying to compete with them. You know…just do what you do best, and don’t worry about the rest. That is what they need to go back to doing. We liked the International Cuisines they carried.

Here's the way their site describes it.

If you haven’t sat down to a meal in one of our stores lately, you’re in for treat. If you have, then you know what we’re talking about. Depending on the size and location of the store, our Prepared Foods departments can include a deli, an ethnic restaurant, burger joint, neighborhood diner, Parisian café, pizza joint, BBQ shack, sushi or seafood bar, raw foods bar, taco bar, salad bar, sandwich bar, olive bar and wine bar.

If variety alone doesn’t make you take out your napkin and tuck in, here’s the clincher: all of the ingredients are natural or organic and as many as possible are locally grown. That means no artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, preservatives or heart-clogging trans fats. It means the food is pure, fresh, flavorful, and just plain wonderful, produced by farmers who care about quality and their environment.

Still not convinced? Okay, how about this. All of our prepared foods are created by trained Team Members under the supervision of an experienced chef, or two, or three, depending on how big the store is and how many dining areas it has. Did that do it? Great. Welcome to Whole Foods Market, now grab that napkin.

Some Sample Recipe Varieties From Their Website

Turkey Cordon Bleu Burgers

Turkey Sausage-Stuffed Grilled Portobellos

Chinese-Style Whole Fish

Grilled Fish Tacos

Indonesian-Style Fish with Tamarind-Turmeric Sauce

Roasted Fish and Veggies with Quinoa and Pine Nuts

Greens and Goat Cheese Gratin

Soy Ginger Chicken and Winter Greens

I found most of these on the first two pages of the food topic I searched in their site. They have far too much selection here in recipes to be constantly boring us with the same repetitiously, dull dishes we've been seeing.

Variety???

So if the store is not a mega-market large enough to fit an "ethnic" restaurant in, the variety will just disappear? And when I spoke to one of the guys that worked the deli counter and voiced my complaint, he said the same thing about the boring choices. He talked about the lack of artificial flavors, BHT, preservatives and so forth; just like the site does.

And while I agree that this is a good thing, for people struggling to make a real dietary change towards a more raw, healthy or just a more green lifestyle, having the same dull American carb loaded dishes minus some of the toxins, still does not really help in that transition. There is no variety in demonstrating the same lack of imagination that a public school cafeteria provides in their menu choices daily.

More Variety in Recipes

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Which Green Movement Is This?

I spoke with several people in the stores recently, because I frequent all three locations. One is near my home, and the other two, I pass them on my way to and from work. I went to the hot food bar and was disgusted to see the same bland choices that I had seen the week before, and the week before that! I was so disgusted that I started verbalizing my frustration about the lack of variety at both the salad bar and the hot bar.

Several of the customers agreed with me, and said they frequent the store almost daily to find the same exact menu of items every single day on the hot bar and salad bar. On another day, I actually verbalized my frustration with this situation to a store clerk that worked in that area. His poor response was that the lack of variety on the hot food and salad bar was the reason why they put up a small specialty bar which he claimed they changed daily. “Tonight’s special is Italian food.” Big whoop! So they simply added more uninspired American fair in the form of American-Italian pasta dishes. More lasagna, which by the way; was already on the main hot food bar; and a few other pasta with meatball type dishes. Typical, all American, boring, unhealthy fair.

Where’s the Turkish stews? The Hungarian Goulash? The Barvarian Roast Beef? Where are all the phenomenal and interesting dishes from all parts of the world that they used to carry? Where has all the fire and spice of variety gone from their presentations of food? Why even have the deli and hot food bar in a natural food store if you are going to constantly present the same uninteresting, bland, flavorless fair that we could find in any Diner anywhere in America?

Even their salad bar stays the same. The dishes they serve behind the glass counters are all the same. Its the same Asian chili steak strips, and the same veggie burgers. The salads are all the exact same choices every single day, but they try to act like you have more variety because they made a little special wherein you can pick 2 or 3 of the same items you see there every day.

It seems that they've gotten so big now, that they've lost the heart of what they started out this business doing. What I see is a business that pretty much was one of the biggest initiators of the green movement, now falling prey to the corporate approach of cheap, quick and easy. Yes, it's healthier in preparation for the most part, but why does healthy always have to be so doggone dull?

Forget about the diversity which grew your business into the popular store it is. Forget about uniqueness. When your website provides over 3k in recipes, but all we see in the food deli and hot bars are the same, typical, lackluster American food choices day in and day out; it certainly makes one think that it’s all about the green; and that green has nothing to do with the green movement. That’s my two cents. What do you think?

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