Monday, September 30, 2013

Whole Foods grows up

I was surprised when I recently saw a story by Brian Gaar of the Austin American-Statesman about
whole foods
the public relations stumbles that Whole Foods Market Inc. has been encountering as it becomes an international brand.

I already considered Whole Foods a big corporation, not some small start-up out of Austin, Texas. After all, Whole Foods has more than 350 stores, including six in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. Whole Foods has traded publicly since January 1992 (I would have had a 3,882.84% gain on the stock if I bought a share back then!). Heck, Whole Foods even ranks #232 on the Fortune 500.

Having public relations issues just comes with becoming a bigger company -- you also become a bigger target. Here are the incidents that were mentioned in the article:
  • A few months ago, Whole Foods "faced fallout over allegations that it punished two Hispanic employees in New Mexico for objecting to a policy restricting the use of Spanish at work." The company subsequently revised its language guidelines.
  • Whole Foods opened a new store in June in Detroit and was criticized for having too high of prices for lower-income residents. I could see how Whole Foods is considered catering to an affluent population. After all, two of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area stores are in the high-end suburbs Edina and Minnetonka.
  • "In 2009, company co-founder and co-CEO John Mackey made national news -- and sparked scattered boycotts -- after he wrote an op-ed piece criticizing President Obama's health care plan." (Yeah, people associate the views of a CEO with his/her employer. See Chick-fil-A and Barilla Group).
Welcome to the major leagues, Whole Foods.
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