Whole Foods is also notable to DCs because it’s done more to bring homeopathic and natural remedies to mainstream consumers than perhaps any other retail outlet, eschewing prescription or even over-the-counter medications in its stores despite the heavy criticism those policies welcome. In that small way, perhaps Whole Foods is aligned with the work of chiropractors and other natural health advocates.
Here are 25 facts about Whole Foods:
1. The concept for Whole Foods was born in 1978 when John Mackey and Renee Lawson Hardy opened an all-natural health food store in Austin, Texas.
2. But it was far from the sparkling operation we know today, as Mackey and Hardy actually opened it in a residential home that was zoned for commercial use. They had a small grocery on the first floor, café on the second, and had their small office and living quarters on the third floor. Since it was zoned for commercial, it no longer had showers, so the two founders had to bathe using the dishwater hose!
3. Their original name was less than ideal, too. The original name of the brand we now know was SaferWay, a slight aimed at the SafeWay grocery chain.
4. By 1980, they had merged with another health food store called Clarksville Grocery and together came up with the name Whole Foods.
5. But only a few months later, the store was wiped out by the worst flood in Austin history, causing $400,000 in damage and almost causing them to shut their doors forever. But it re-opened less than a month later, thanks to help from several customer volunteers and eager employees.
6. That first Whole Foods started with just 19 employees (Team Members) in 1980, and several of them are still with the organization.
7. Whole Food's company headquarters is in Austin, Texas, as well as its flagship store on Lamar Boulevard. The store, encompassing more than 80,000 square feet, is one of the top tourist destinations in Austin, hosting more visitors than even the Texas state capitol! It also has many "hangout spaces" and other amenities for patrons, including an ice skating rink on the roof!
8. They opened five more stores in Texas, and in 1988, opened their first non-Texas store in New Orleans, Louisiana. By 2001, Whole Foods went big city by coming to Manhattan (the largest grocery store in NYC) and the first California store was in Palo Alto in 2004.
9. There are now 385 Whole Foods stores across the United States, Canada, and even the U.K., making it the largest supermarket retailer of natural and organic food products in the world.
10. Co-founder John Mackey is now the CEO, and he does things a little differently than most large corporations. In fact, Mackey has given himself only a $1 per year salary since 2007, with no bonuses or stock options!
11. Whole Foods also institutes a "salary cap" for its executives, mandating that no exec makes more than 19 times the average company salary.
12. As of 2013, the average hourly wage for Whole Foods employees was $18.89, amounting to nearly $40,000 per year.
13. CEO Mackey has even instituted a “no secrets” policy where the salaries of every single employee – including executives – is public knowledge and available to anyone in the organization.
14. With employee-first practices and great treatment like that, it’s no wonder that Whole Foods has been on Fortune Magazine’s list of “100 Best Companies To Work For” for 17 straight years.
15. Whole Foods stopped using plastic bags to bag its groceries for patrons on Earth Day in 2008, a move which they estimate has kept 150 million plastic bags out of the landfills since.
16. The grocery bags they now use (called Better Bags) are made of 80 percent post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, with each bag effectively taking four 20-ounce plastic bottles out of landfills.
17. Dedicated to providing only natural, healthy food, Whole Foods maintains a list of 80 “unacceptable ingredients” that are banned from all stores. Many of these include food with GMOs, hydrogenated fats, artificial flavors, etc. but also Aspirin and any pain relievers like Ibuprofen are outlawed from Whole Foods stores.
18. Thanks to practices like that, Whole Foods is frequently recognized by The Environmental Protection Agency as a Green Power Partner of the Year, as well as winning other awards for environmental advocacy.
Whole foods has also been named “Best Animal-Friendly Retailer” by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
19. Feel like shoplifting from Whole Foods? I can guarantee you'll make it at least past the front doors undisturbed, even if you don't even try to hide your larceny. That's because, since 2007, Whole Foods has a strict policy where employees are not allowed to make physical contact with patrons under any circumstances – especially shoplifting, meant to protect their team members. The policy is no joke, as an employee (who was also a former Marine) was fired in 2007 for chasing and physically apprehending a shoplifter in Michigan.
20. Despite all of these kudos and accolades, Whole Foods hasn't escaped scrutiny and even scandal. In fact, in 2015 they were busted by the Department of Consumer Affairs in New York, who found that area stores were falsifying the weights of prepackaged items to bring in more profits, sometimes overcharging by as much as $15!
21. In 2016, Whole Foods co-CEOs received a warning letter from the Food and Drug Administration in February of that year. The letter highlighted "serious violations" that were found in a food preparation facility in Everett, MA, bringing additional scrutiny and sending stock prices on a bumpy course.
22. Whole Foods has a strict policy of not stocking any over-the-counter cold and flu relievers in their stores or even aspirin. However, they do carry a host of natural remedies, leading to criticism that most of these homeopathic cures are not approved by the FDA. (Chiropractors can probably relate to that situation!)
23. Whole Foods has also been dubbed "Whole Paycheck" for its astronomical prices compared to other food stores. Believe me, everyone who works there, including management, are aware of this moniker. To counter it, they're planning to launch a series of more affordable grocery chains to compete with WalMart foods and others, called 365 by Whole Foods Market.
24. But no one can accuse Whole Foods of not being extremely caring and generous, both on an individual employee and organizational level. In fact, they run programs to provide meals to children in Rwanda through the UN World Food Program, and Whole Foods team members have also donated $500,000 to the Whole Planet Foundation, helping more than 13,000 people work to lift their lives from poverty. Whole Foods stores also hold community giving days called "5% Days" when that portion of the day's net sales are pledged to a local nonprofit.
25. The company is extremely environmentally and clean energy conscious, too. Their store in Glastonbury, CT was the first supermarket to generate power from an on-site fuel cell, and in 2006, they purchase enough renewable energy credits from wind farms in Canada to offset 100% of the electricity needs for all of their stories in the U.S., the largest such purchase in North American history.