With the announcement that Amazon will be taking over Whole Foods Market, CEO John Mackey offered the eyebrow-raising suggestion that Whole Foods might be expanding its offering some.
Whole Foods as we know it — high quality (highly priced) goods held to a high standard — is not changing, according to Mackey.
“They’re not stupid enough to go change that,” Mackey told a Town Hall of Whole Foods employees.
But just because Whole Foods prime isn’t changing doesn’t meant the brand is not going to evolve, Mackey noted — or expand.
“Over time, there could be other formats that evolve that — that might — wouldn’t be branded Whole Foods Market, potentially, wouldn’t be our standards.”
Whole Foods technically already has a side store — 365 — where it offers private label goods and somewhat lower pricing. Whole Foods, however, is a premium brand, which means it does not necessarily want to overly downgrade its inventory or appeal. There have been some thoughts that in the wake of the Amazon acquisition, a selection of discounted, non-organic food might be in the supermarket chain’s future — as a remedy to its “Whole Paycheck” reputation.
“That’s their dilemma,” said Roger Davidson, who oversaw Walmart Stores Inc’s (WMT.N) global food procurement and now is president of Oakton Advisory Group. Mackey is “being pulled both ways.”
The Whole Foods chief also noted Amazon’s technology will help the grocer transform from “class dunce” into “valedictorian.”
“It’s too early to talk about how benefits and compensation may synch up,” Mackey said of the topic, after jesting that Whole Foods employees will get free Amazon devices on merger day.
Amazon’s Worldwide Consumer chief, Jeff Wilke, said at the town hall that Whole Foods’ healthier options helped change how people think about food.
Wilke also noted that his breakfast was made of quinoa, blueberry “and some other vegetables.”
“Those aren’t vegetables,” jested Mackey.
It seems perhaps Whole Foods can teach Amazon some things too.