Whole Foods Got Millennials All Wrong
May 8, 2015 7:35 AM   Subscribe

The Washington Post reports companies like Whole Foods originally assumed Millennials would spend more on food (among other consumptive goods) than they're actually willing to. So they're lowering their prices.

"[L]ately, Whole Foods' model hasn't looked quite as appetizing as it once did. Just ask Whole Foods, which is now working to adjust its strategy by launching a new line of stores with lower prices.
...
'When you looked at millennials' consumption patterns a few years ago, what you would expect is for them to be dining out more than anyone else, and just spending more money on food,' said Darren Seifer, food and beverage analyst at market research firm NPD group. 'But the recession changed that.'"
posted by ourt (199 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Whole Foods just now figured out that we're The Brokest Generation and that everyone I know refers to Whole Foods as Whole Paycheck?
posted by dis_integration at 7:36 AM on May 8, 2015 [145 favorites]


I joke that I can only afford 1/16th Foods.
posted by ourt at 7:37 AM on May 8, 2015 [62 favorites]


People laugh... but it's not so much a joke as it is reality.
posted by ourt at 7:38 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


I didn't realize Whole Foods' target demographic was Millenials.

I feel so wanted!
posted by phunniemee at 7:39 AM on May 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


Hell, I am not a millenial and I can tell you that I always chose my purchases at WF very carefully back in my 20s. I haven't been in an WF in years but I don't have the same wide-eyed starry feels I used to have about them.
posted by Kitteh at 7:42 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


"It will offer a convenient, transparent, and values-oriented experience geared towards millennial shoppers," he said in a statement.

I just want to buy some goddamn lettuce.
posted by griphus at 7:45 AM on May 8, 2015 [127 favorites]


It's pretty normal to be a little broke in your 20s. I don't know why Whole Foods would be shocked that younger are price conscious.
posted by missmerrymack at 7:46 AM on May 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


It's pretty normal to be a little broke in your 20s.

This "Economic Recovery" is taking so long to materialize that people who were a little broke in their 20s are still a little broke in their 30s.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:48 AM on May 8, 2015 [125 favorites]


The only thing that will get me to buy organic is if it's less expensive than conventional. I don't think I'm the only millennial who realizes organic is mostly a pointless ripoff from Whole Foods or from Wal*Mart or wherever it's sold.

What I like from the high end grocery stores is the variety of exotic and specialized ingredients so I don't have to drive out of my way to the asian market to get stuff like jackfruit or to a health food store somewhere to get a variety of vegetarian stuff.

I think the desire for variety is more of a millennial trait than wanting organic, but this generation stuff is almost always anecdotal and silly.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:49 AM on May 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


So Whole Foods wants to start another chain with cheaper foods than they sell now?

"My guess is that they're trying to get them now, when they are single and don't have a family, and then graduate them into mainstream Whole Foods stores later," Seifer said.

Um...why not just lower the prices in Whole Foods, which is mostly a total ripoff for those who find status in where they get their blueberries?
posted by xingcat at 7:50 AM on May 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


I just go to the Korean grocer down the street where I can buy what seems like two weeks worth of fresh vegetables and fruit for less than 20 bucks.
posted by ReeMonster at 7:50 AM on May 8, 2015 [18 favorites]


This "Economic Recovery" is taking so long to materialize that people who were a little broke in their 20s are still a little broke in their 30s.

What about the Gen-X'ers who lived through three phases of "economic recovery" and are thus still a little broke in their 40's?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:51 AM on May 8, 2015 [169 favorites]


Organic is a waste of money anyway. Aside from the pesticide spray thing, fine, but the definition is so loose that you're not necessarily getting local produce or produce that was raised under environmentally friendly conditions. And the "GMO-free" stuff is just anti-science fearmongering.

Of course, I'd love to be able to afford nicer produce. But you're never going to see me shelling out for organic. Locally grown, maybe, but small farms usually can't afford organic certifications to start with.
posted by sciatrix at 7:52 AM on May 8, 2015 [26 favorites]


I've shopped at Whole Foods for ingredients once or twice, and the meal that came out of it was one of the best tasting I've ever made. But that came at a price, I'd estimate about 80% over the Kroger. As their target audience, my dollars aren't sustaining them.
posted by LiteS at 7:54 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


My Chicago friend group runs the gamut from 25-35ish and we all shop at places like Trader Joes, Aldi, and farmers markets for the most part. NO ONE shops at whole foods unless you need some really random fancy ingredient.
posted by Windigo at 7:55 AM on May 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


Also, this could be a Brooklyn thing or a my peer group thing or a social class thing, but I don't know a single person who does their regular food shopping at Whole Foods. Like, ingredients, yeah, but I don't think I know anyone who walks in there to get regular grocery store stuff.
posted by griphus at 7:55 AM on May 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


This "Economic Recovery" is taking so long to materialize that people who were a little broke in their 20s are still a little broke in their 30s.

No-o-o-o-o kidding. I am broke and in my 30s, and I'm also really aware that I am the prototypical Whole Foods target audience shopper. And I'm fine with that. When our local WF set up a cookie bar (like a salad bar, but for cookies, you know), my boyfriend and I squee'd with delight. And if I really want to feel like a queen, I take a leisurely stroll down the fancy water aisle. All those shelves of exotic fancy waters is like, the essence of luxury.

And then, after I look at the fancy waters, I go pay for my $2 cookies and $4 bottle of chardonnay and head to Ingles for my actual food.
posted by witchen at 7:56 AM on May 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


The only time I can buy organic is either when the seasonal farmer's markets in town start up, if I have really saved my shekels to get a CSA basket, or if there is a really really good sale at the supermarkets. I envy people who live in much bigger cities with ethnic markets that have cheap veg and interesting vegetarian/vegan products.
posted by Kitteh at 7:58 AM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't know a single person who does their regular food shopping at Whole Foods. Like, ingredients, yeah, but I don't think I know anyone who walks in there to get regular grocery store stuff.

I was this person when it was far and away the most convenient store for me--it was next to my gym, which was next to a train. (Good thing the gym membership was cheap...) All of the other stores were 1+ mile away with no transit options. The minute I moved closer to a regular grocery I stopped, and haven't been back in probably a year.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 7:59 AM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, agreed about the specialty ingredient shopping or treating yourself aspect of WF.
posted by Kitteh at 8:00 AM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am a little broke in my 30s, but that is partly because I quit my stressful job for a lower paying, much less stressful one and because I am pretty much supporting my girlfriend while she goes to school. Even if neither of those things were true, I wouldn't shop at Whole Foods.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 8:01 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I occasionally shop there, for their chicken when it is on sale. It does not shrink to half its size when cooked. I refuse to buy their pancetta at $400 per pound: I'll use bacon and the hell with it!
posted by francesca too at 8:01 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am dancing with happiness. I am vindicated. My family has spent their lives implying what a bad person I am for not shopping there all the time.

Also, this could be a Brooklyn thing or a my peer group thing or a social class thing, but I don't know a single person who does their regular food shopping at Whole Foods.

Come on over to Cambridge, MA. All locations, extremely crowded all the time. I know tons of people who shop half there and half at Trader Joe's. And then they say oh, woe is me, I actually have to deign to set foot in a Shaw's, to buy the one brand of boxed crackers I must have. Life is so hard.

I am dancing with happiness ...
posted by sockerpup at 8:05 AM on May 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


I've never felt more conscious of my socioeconomic class than when walking through the parking lot and through the front door of Whole Foods. I paid them a visit once because I'd heard that they had convenient bins for recycling the weird #5 and #7 plastics that my normal pickup doesn't take, and the entire store gave off a spooky"yoooou don't maaaake enough moneeeey to be heeeere" vibe that made me seek the nearest exit once I dropped off my recyclables. It made me aware of being lower middle class more than any other business I've ever visited that wasn't a high-end department store.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:07 AM on May 8, 2015 [45 favorites]


I guess it makes economic sense. The older folks can afford it, so let's keep gouging them. For Generation X on down, we'll keep trying to figure out how to make money. Follow the money.
posted by Melismata at 8:08 AM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I live in Brooklyn, within walking distance to Associated, Key Foods, Whole Foods and Union Market. Key foods is the farthest away and closes at 7pm. Associated's prices aren't much better than Whole Foods but their produce and meat selections are markedly worse, and lots of stuff is often close to the expiration date. Union Market is just as expensive as Whole Foods and super cramped. So, in our case, Whole Foods is the best choice for lots of reasons. Plus they have produce that they grow on the roof and which is priced reasonably. If we had a car we'd go to Fairway and if it weren't a) always super-crowded and b) over a mile away, we'd go to Trader Joe's.

I agree, though, with Strange Interlude's take on the general vibe of the place. The staff is super-friendly but the clientelle are oozing entitlement.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:11 AM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I've never used it for anything except treats or luxury items. It's crazy to buy staple groceries there.
posted by thelonius at 8:13 AM on May 8, 2015


Whole Foods blew it where I am (Ottawa) IMO for three reasons:

1) We aren't broke (20s/early 30s and in debt but positive cash-flow these days), but we pay $60 for two weeks of organic veggies delivered in an ethanol van from a family farm 30 kms away. We've done this in three provinces now (only one had a Whole Foods, but still) with minor variations in the price.

Whole Foods is more expensive, less convenient, and has a greater environmental footprint than these types of operations - which are really finding their strides in a lot of markets with proximity to farmland.

2) Their organic meats might be priced the same with those I would get at a farmer's market, but again - we're your stereotypical finicky young professionals who consider not only whether something is organic or not, but also like supporting local, reducing our environmental footprint, and I hate to say it - will always prefer paying a person than a corporation, no matter how good that corporation is. I will put $15 in the hands of a farmer for a steak over $13 in the hands of a corporation every time.

3)I do not like how the price gap makes these largely white-only stores wherever you go. I have been in I think four Whole Foods and it was extremely noticeable how much less diverse the store's clientele was than the general population. I feel icky about that.

The white chocolate peanut butter is great and I find a few things there I have trouble finding elsewhere, but I feel like there are options out there today that weren't there 10 years ago that make Whole Foods a bit unnecessary for me.
posted by buoys in the hood at 8:13 AM on May 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


Now - we're a late-entry market for WF, so that experience might not fully translate to cities that have had WF for a while, or who don't have beautiful green farms a 30 minute drive in any direction.
posted by buoys in the hood at 8:15 AM on May 8, 2015


Jesus, I'm in my 40s with no kids and I don't think I have ever bought a full bag of groceries from WF. I go there about once a quarter for some weird shit I can't find on my normal route (Dear Vons: why no potato starch?), or occasionally their salad bar or fucking amazing breakfast bar.

I have lived near Whole Foods that were wall-to-wall lines back through the frozen-section crowded all the time, their parking lots full of feral SUVs with distracted drivers - the Plano store, the La Jolla store, looking at you guys. My current WF is on the edge of Porter Ranch, a well-off hillside bit of the San Fernando Valley, and it may be the emptiest grocery store in all of LA county. I don't think I've ever seen anyone using a cart there unless they had a kid in it, and the kid was holding the 3 things they were buying.

And while I *can* buy 2 bags/$100 of things at Trader Joe's, there still isn't one whole actual meal between them. Unless you count a box of roasted gorgonzola cheese crackers and a tub of spinach dip a meal, WHICH I DO. Still, that place is ungodly and I don't know how people survive on TJs alone either.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:15 AM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's possible that a good part of Whole Foods' new strategy might have to do with catering to people who are single -- people who want to buy their groceries at Whole Foods, but in smaller and therefore less expensive packages.

Reminds me of a joke...

A guy walks up to the check-out counter at Whole Foods and carefully picks from his basket, one tomato, one onion, one head of lettuce, one orange, and one can of beans.

The cashier looks at the man and says "You must be single."

"I know why you think that" says the man. "It's because I am only buying one of each item."

"No, not at all," says the cashier, "its because you're ugly."
posted by three blind mice at 8:15 AM on May 8, 2015 [33 favorites]


...and lots of stuff is often close to the expiration date.

The Associated by us does that too. My wife suspects they buy and repackage close-to-expiry meats from other supermarkets.
posted by griphus at 8:17 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


My wife suspects they buy and repackage close-to-expiry meats from other supermarkets.

I have had the exact same suspicion!
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:17 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


They really expected a whole consumer base of "hipster trust fund babies" to materialize and it didn't. Or maybe they are just not considered cool.
posted by ChuckRamone at 8:20 AM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


The one I have been to does not have millennials around save for those manning the cash or sweeping the floor. The customers are all people in their 40's and 50's with bad blonde hair extensions and too much unflattering plastic surgery. They can be pretend millenials, but as for the real ones, this is the first generation I know where a driver's license is considered a perk, let alone the notion of owning a car.

Where does brass running this chain live?
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:21 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


~This "Economic Recovery" is taking so long to materialize that people who were a little broke in their 20s are still a little broke in their 30s.

~What about the Gen-X'ers who lived through three phases of "economic recovery" and are thus still a little broke in their 40's?


It isn't any better here in the 50's, kids.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:24 AM on May 8, 2015 [24 favorites]


Whole Foods blew it where I am (Ottawa) IMO for three reasons:

I agree, and also point out that we have a local chain that's been been doing the local, high-quality produce/meat/dairy/bakery thing for more than a decade. WF does a lot of prepackaged meals and charcuterie, which was a bit of a surprise to me considering they advertise as a grocery store. They're much more like a deli in some ways than I expected. Our local chain, Farm Boy, takes as its model a farmer's market brought indoors, and I think that works in our town quite a lot better (Canadians are cheap). WF is also unbelievably expensive compared to other stores, and, particularly compared to FB, provides not much more for the prices they ask.

Urban Fare in Vancouver seems to be a closer competitor to WF, though they go even further with having an actual restaurant in their stores too. It seems overwhelmingly popular in their downtown locations. Every time I go there for business, it seems like we end up for lunch at one of them.
posted by bonehead at 8:25 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm in my fifties and not broke but still think that Whole Foods is too expensive. We can buy a week's worth of meals for two at Trader Joe's for about $150 while that same money seems to buy you about two meals and a pack of weird cheese that you couldn't help picking up.
posted by octothorpe at 8:27 AM on May 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


In today's thread: Whole Foods is just kinda weird, when you get right down to it.
posted by glaucon at 8:28 AM on May 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


Um...why not just lower the prices in Whole Foods, which is mostly a total ripoff for those who find status in where they get their blueberries?

As I recall they already did try lowering their prices, and that didn't work because (A) they've already scared people off and (B) they have this reputation as an upscale place and lowering their prices out of the stratosphere could ruin that and they'd lose the clientele they still have.

For me, Whole Foods was the place to go to buy interesting but expensive cheese once in a while, and mostly ignore the rest. But then our regular grocery store expanded its cheese selection.
posted by Foosnark at 8:28 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Whole Foods blew it where I am (Ottawa) IMO for three reasons

Holy crap Ottawa sounds like it changed a lot in the last 10 years. I thought everyone just went to Loblaws
posted by Hoopo at 8:29 AM on May 8, 2015


Now - we're a late-entry market for WF,

In the early 1980s, my sister (high school age) absolutely insisted that we shop at this environmentally correct, cool new place called Bread & Circus in Cambridge, MA. ("At the time of its acquisition by Whole Foods Market in 1992, Bread & Circus was the largest natural food retailer in the Northeast.") Lots of fighting in our family at the time, but she had her way. She came to visit last year and we went shopping at the local WF. While there, she fussed over buying some granola bars because they had too much packaging.

Off to eat some Twizzlers now.
posted by sockerpup at 8:29 AM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


My understanding of the millennial concept is a higher ratio of prepared foods vs grocery and a larger space for eating in the store. It has nothing to do with the actual costs.
posted by H. Roark at 8:32 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]




While I am not here to defend Whole Foods, this article gets their strategy wrong. This isn't a "getting the cool kids to like us" move, this is a step towards becoming WalMart (Mackey's second favorite company behind his own). The company has enjoyed industry-leading margins for a long, long time, and any sign of sales levelling off is unacceptable for their management.

Whole Foods started as a place that focused on organic food, natural health remedies, a "team first" work environment, and having environmentally-friendly practices at the forefront. Now WFM is opening stores at a rapid pace, they have cut selection and variety down to better mirror conventional grocer's shelves, and they are no longer the employee-centric company they once were (look at the steady decline over the past few years of the Whole Foods in the Fortune "Great Places To Work" survey).

Whole Foods is just becoming another grocery store, and what could be more mainstream and retail-y than generational advertising and management practices that drive profits at the cost of other goals or values?

Disclosure: I have worked for WFM for years in a lower-middle management position. I am not a fan of the direction that the company is going. I loved working for a place that didn't do advertising, I have little-to-no interest in competing with Safeway/Ralph's on how much prepackaged crap we can peddle, and I think that when we look back on the history of WFM we will see that our prepared foods section was the source of much of the company's growth and it losing its way. There are a lot of us who work here who are sad at the changes, but also have no say anymore in fighting it.
posted by Snowden at 8:35 AM on May 8, 2015 [44 favorites]


Come on over to Cambridge, MA. All locations, extremely crowded all the time. I know tons of people who shop half there and half at Trader Joe's. And then they say oh, woe is me, I actually have to deign to set foot in a Shaw's, to buy the one brand of boxed crackers I must have. Life is so hard.

This is totally me, with the one-off Shaw's trip but without the bellyaching about it. We get peanut butter at Shaw's (or, preferably, Market Basket), because we like the processed stuff. Everything else is Trader Joe's, with a stop at Whole Foods for a handful of nice-to-have things.

Lately, though, we've cut out the WF trip, because there's nothing we actually need there, and because we've got a baby in tow. Our Trader Joe's has special shopping carts that you can strap an infant car seat into, and Whole Foods doesn't, and it's not really worth taking him out of his seat just for some castelvetrano olives.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:35 AM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


parking lots full of feral SUVs with distracted drivers

Wow, this is exactly my experience with the WF nearest me, which is in a pretty tony area. Just trying to navigate the parking lot is an education in entitlement. I think I went there twice and decided it wasn't worth the aggravation. (I actually shop at not-the-closest Trader Joe's for the same reason ... I love TJ's for certain things, but the closest one attracts a very Real Housewives crowd.)
posted by uncleozzy at 8:36 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


I didn't realize Whole Foods' target demographic was Millenials.

I'm pretty sure their target demographic is Boomers who hope that a gluten free, low carb diet can undo a lifetime of booze, drugs and the general concept of aging.
posted by pwnguin at 8:39 AM on May 8, 2015 [32 favorites]


I have never been happier to be a millennial in the greater Washington, DC area who can shop at Giant Food. Yeah, I use TJ's for things like meat and cheese, but for cheap: veggies, canned foods, baking needs, kitchen/cleaning supplies, and anything Central American under the sun I have basically become a walking Giant advertisement. ♥

(Not the Van Ness location, though, their produce is all sad and wilt-y...)
posted by capricorn at 8:39 AM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think that when we look back on the history of WFM we will see that our prepared foods section was the source of much of the company's growth and it losing it's way

Can you elaborate on this? I'm curious...
posted by overeducated_alligator at 8:39 AM on May 8, 2015


Can you elaborate on this? I'm curious...

Never worked at Whole Foods but my best guess is that the prepared foods are what makes them unique and appealing, because of the focus on "healthy" products. Broccoli is as gluten free at Whole Foods as it is anywhere else, but any given pre-made product isn't.
posted by capricorn at 8:41 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Actually, I'll be interested to see what Whole Foods does with this new line, after the partial demise of my most favorite "quick shop" store, Fresh and Easy. It's a mini-store, maybe 8-10 shortish aisles and a large selection of refrigerated and frozen ready-to-cook meal components, a decent chunk of the small produce section was organic, excellent house brands, excellent meat prices, a nice little bakery.

My first store, in San Diego, was in between a big suburban neighborhood and the tech valley, with the science corridor on the other side of that and a Marine base 5 miles away. There were probably a thousand apartment units within a few square miles, lots of single people/roommates, young couples, and young parents. Millennials. That store is staying open, while my new closest store didn't make it - next to a mall and house-only neighborhoods, about 5 miles too far away from CSUN to be right in the middle of all the apartments near campus - I think the one over there is staying open.

Clearly, if they can put the stores in the right places and at the right price point, there's a market for it.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:42 AM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Also, I'll nth that as an unmarried young person who cooks only for myself, stores with a "pay less money, get smaller amount of product" concept would appeal to me in so many ways.
posted by capricorn at 8:44 AM on May 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


I split the difference: Save-A-Lot for staples and alot of produce (for some reason, their produce is so much better than just about anywhere else around here), and Trader Joe's for not much else*. I only go to Whole Foods for TVP, and occasionally weird beers.


*-But honestly, for the La Finca Malbec (that stuff is amazing).
posted by eclectist at 8:47 AM on May 8, 2015


It isn't any better here in the 50's, kids.

Nor here in the late 60's.
posted by jgaiser at 8:47 AM on May 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


To use the lingo of the demographic, Whole Foods is too thirsty try hard to exist.

And their hot buffet is shitty.
posted by The Whelk at 8:48 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


You can get TVP in big old "survive the apocalypse" cans online and that stuff basically never goes bad. Might be cheaper than WF even with shipping.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:49 AM on May 8, 2015


And their hot buffet is shitty.

Yes, yes it is. It tries too hard and lacks simple things like, say, vegetables.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:50 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't know a single person who does their regular food shopping at Whole Foods.

I used to be one when I lived in an affluent suburb of a moderately hip city. I had the choice of three grocery stored near me - Whole Foods, Walmart, and one of the major chains which was Walmart-esque in its treatment of workers (no bennies for most, barely above minimum wage) that had OK quality products at nearly Whole Foods prices. I shopped almost exclusively at Whole Foods as a result, partially out of laziness (they had a few exclusive items I liked and it was easier to make a single stop) but partially because I have the disposable income to support a company that pays something at least closely resembling a living wage filled with happy workers.

I don't know the fiscal performance of that particular store, but it was pretty regularly packed with people getting entire carts of stuff. But again, affluent and hip.
posted by Candleman at 8:54 AM on May 8, 2015


It isn't any better here in the 50's, kids.

Nor here in the late 60's.


Your anecdata is invalid
The wealth gap is also growing between generations. People 65 and older were the only age group to see their median net wealth grow over the period, rising to $170,516 in 2011, from $146,205 in 2000. Those younger than 35 saw their net worth drop to a median of $6,676 from $9,765.
posted by dis_integration at 8:55 AM on May 8, 2015 [29 favorites]


Re: upthread about Farm Boy, I want to like them but I find them just as expensive as WF with the same kind of WF shoppers that are affluent and white. It doesn't help that the only one in Kingston is out by the mall and not near downtown.
posted by Kitteh at 8:56 AM on May 8, 2015


Back in my early 20s in the late 90s we all easily got jobs with tech/energy/finance companies right out of school, starting at $60k and up. We gorged on Whole Foods and were responsible for the rise of obsessive foodyism. These kids today, with their practical choices, I tell ya.
posted by mitochondrial midichlorian at 8:56 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


@ overeducated_alligator: In the history of Whole Foods, the first 20 years (give or take) was a time where the model was pretty consistent: be the "crunchy" store everyone spoofs these days. Have lots of produce that, while expensive, manages to keep a few local farmers gainfully employed (stuff like $4/lb tomatoes come to mind). Have dedicated team members that are probably over-qualified to work in a produce section or cut salmon. Encourage people to eat less processed, more whole foods as a path to healthier living (I lost 50 pounds within 18 months of joining the company). There was a prepared foods section, but it was small, and I believe actually started out as a salad bar only.

Then the made-in-house tortilla chip ($6/lb) came out in the mid 2000s, and people who used to dismiss WFM as a bunch of Naderites and kooks took notice. Then the pizza bars ($8-$10/lb) came out, and the growth boom took off. Our margins took off, and ever since we have spent more and more square footage and capital investment to making our stores like food courts, with buffet and to-order hot meals the main focus. This is an unsustainable model.

It used to be painted in the back of many Whole Foods, the Hippocrates' quote "Let your food be your medicine." And while most who work for the company aren't anti-Western medicine, many of us do believe that eating is a way to better health. They've started taking down that quote as they remodel stores. It's probably hard to look at after working in a grease bath making pizzas, or selling "lifestyle" wares instead of natural remedies in your health section.
posted by Snowden at 8:59 AM on May 8, 2015 [25 favorites]


Hot food bar offerings will differ depending on when you go, and seem to differ by location IME. The one closest to where I used to live had plenty of veggies and vegetarian dishes on offer all the time, but the one by my in-laws was all fried chicken, mashed potatoes and mac and cheese; the one in Santa Fe gave you your choice of red or green chile burritos.

My wife and I mainly used HoFoo as a TV dinner restaurant for when we didn't feel like cooking but didn't really want regular takeout (chinese, mexican or burger joint); otherwise we went just for the occasional specialty ingredient. Their mac and cheese and samosas were actually pretty decent.
posted by LionIndex at 9:00 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


There is the potential that a new chain of cheaper Whole Foods supermarkets will cannibalize sales at the original stores.

Is there a business case study where this ever actually happened? I feel like I only ever see it sited as a reason for shortsightedly tanking a discount line out of fears that it will cannibalize full price sales.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:01 AM on May 8, 2015


I typically shop at Central Market (similar to Whole Foods, not quite as fancy, not quite as pricey, wider selection), but will run in to the tiny Whole Foods in my neighborhood for emergency prepared meals, etc. That said, the addition of the cookie bar was genius. I now go to WF solely for cookies several times a month. I'm not proud of that.
posted by odayoday at 9:01 AM on May 8, 2015


As their target demographic, I have to say, I've ever been in a Whole Foods in my life. There's a few popping up across the Chicagoland to replace the old Dominick's so I am sure I will check them out eventually.

But when I want high-end and variety, I tend to choose Mariano's. For the staples it's usually Jewel's or whatever grocery store is closer weather it's the nearby Mexican market or the Aldi's.
posted by bgal81 at 9:02 AM on May 8, 2015


Guys this thread is making me want to basically hug Berkeley Bowl.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 9:07 AM on May 8, 2015 [19 favorites]


Yea, kitteh. I have a friend who works for Farmboy and unfortunately, they aren't currently interested more urban locations than their current store complement. It would require them to make significant changes in their delivery and stocking system. They do have great produce, a fantastic deli, and robots.

I love the complaints about WF drivers! It aligns perfectly with the ridiculous car/pedestrian situation at our new WF location.
posted by Gor-ella at 9:08 AM on May 8, 2015


Apparently not shopping at WF is the new not watching TV.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:08 AM on May 8, 2015 [18 favorites]


There was a period of time where my younger brother did most of his shopping at Whole Foods when he was in college and just-out-of-college. I'm not sure if it was the closest store in proximity to him, but he had the car. I thought he was nuts. Meanwhile, I'm the lazy-ass going to Shaws because it's the closest in walking distance that's marginally acceptable, unless I begged a ride to go to the H-Mart. (You have no idea how happy I was when an H-Mart opened up in Central Sq.) Then again, one of us wasn't in academia.
posted by ultranos at 9:09 AM on May 8, 2015


Meanwhile in Baltimore, Whole Foods gave out free sandwiches to the National Guard. "To make sandwiches for the men and women keeping Baltimore safe. We are so thankful to have them here and they're pumped for Turkey & Cheese."
posted by standardasparagus at 9:10 AM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I miss the Park Slope Food Coop. Cheaper than Ralph's, better than Whole Foods.
posted by n9 at 9:10 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wait is the cookie bar real? I might poke my head in for a cookie bar.
posted by The Whelk at 9:12 AM on May 8, 2015


Apparently not shopping at WF is the new not watching TV.

It's more like shopping at WF is the new not watching TV.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:14 AM on May 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


I live near a flagship Whole Foods in Fairfax, VA, and that place is glorious. They have separate mini-restaurants for seafood, barbeque, grilled cheese(!), ramen/sushi, and general pub fare. On weekends, they have $2.50 Peking Duck wraps - the line starts stacking up as soon as they open the stand. Would I buy my regular groceries there? No. But I find myself there all the time for the little restaurants within the store.

Last night I had a "kimcheese" (kimchi/cheese - spicy & delicious as hell) sandwich and a Dark Horse "Smells Like a Safety Meeting" IPA for dinner. $12 total ($8 for the sandwich, $4 for the beer.) Not an everyday thing, but well within the realm of a dinner out.
posted by festivus at 9:14 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't know a single person who does their regular food shopping at Whole Foods.

I used to do this when I (1) didn't have a car and (2) lived 100 yards from a WFM. Haven't done this for a while.
posted by theorique at 9:15 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


We mostly shop at Fairway or Citarella, but will sometimes spring for WF. I have shopped at Trader Joe's a few times at different Manhattan locations, but the quality is fairly poor, comparatively.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:15 AM on May 8, 2015




I don't shop at WF with any regularity, but I often stop at Whole Foods when I'm on a road trip and there's one close to the highway.

Especially on the weekends, they often have a lot of free fruit and cheese samples out. So, I wander through the store a few times, snacking on free samples. If you're really hungry, you can ask for a couple of samples of deli meat or prepared food from the cold case. After snacking, use their cleaner-than-a-gas-station restroom, and then it's back on the road. Free snacks! Clean bathroom! Zero dollars spent! Screw the store that charges $6.99/lb. for asparagus! It's perfect.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:18 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


We have no Whole Foods here but I play a little horror game when I walk through the local high-end grocery store. I ask myself, if this were the actual price of food, if this were the only place to shop, what could I afford to eat? Protein is pretty much out of the question.
posted by Jode at 9:19 AM on May 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


I miss the Park Slope Food Coop. Cheaper than Ralph's, better than Whole Foods.

I am anxiously waiting for the moment when we can do all our grocery shopping at the Kensington Food Coop and not feel guilty about spending the money.
posted by griphus at 9:23 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's more like shopping at WF is the new not watching TV.

Not going by this thread.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:23 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also, this could be a Brooklyn thing or a my peer group thing or a social class thing, but I don't know a single person who does their regular food shopping at Whole Foods. Like, ingredients, yeah, but I don't think I know anyone who walks in there to get regular grocery store stuff.

I walk in there because their rooftop bar is pleasant and reasonably priced and my friends and I can play games up there without raising any eyebrows.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:24 AM on May 8, 2015


Also what does a pound of pasture-raised, antibiotic-free, etc. etc. ground beef cost at WF?
posted by griphus at 9:25 AM on May 8, 2015


Wait is the cookie bar real? I might poke my head in for a cookie bar.

Yeah. It's real, and it's fabulous. You pay by the pound. All manner of cookies, even the thick waffles dipped in chocolate. A really nice treat for under $5.
posted by witchen at 9:25 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I hit Whole Foods once in a while but it is a fairly rare trip these days and not for staple goods. They have some reasonably priced things of quality but you have to be aware of what a 'normal' price is for such things. Since it is one of several higher-end food outlets in my area (Fresh Market, The Meat House, assorted mom-and-pops and farm markets) it has to take its turn in the rotation.

It reminds me of the audiophile equipment curve; you can often improve quality by paying more money, but often you improve only slightly by paying a lot more, and sometimes you don't improve at all but pay extra because it's sitting NEXT to something better.

Trader Joe's, on the other hand, is a much friendlier regular-joe experience. Can't say I go there for things like detergents and cleaners but if it's edible, it's generally good there and not priced ridiculously.
posted by delfin at 9:29 AM on May 8, 2015


I WILL PAY MORE FOR WHOLE FOODS DOUBLE CHOCOLATE MUFFINS. CAN YOU HEAR ME WHOLE FOODS?

(they don't carry them in the 3 whole foods closest to me because conspiracy against me in particular.)
posted by srboisvert at 9:29 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also what does a pound of pasture-raised, antibiotic-free, etc. etc. ground beef cost at WF?

At my local WF, ground chuck with a "4" (out of 5) rating on their new humane-ness-of-animal-treatment scale was between $9-10 a pound last I checked. A pound of tenderloin with the same rating is probably like $30-40 a pound.
posted by dis_integration at 9:30 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


The cookie bar carmelitas are my crack. Also, weirdly, the chocolate-dipped pretzels. The cookie bar cookies are regular sized (not like enormous coffee-shop-sized cookies), so if you want like three different cookies and nothing else, it's perfect.
posted by odayoday at 9:31 AM on May 8, 2015


I think the last time I set foot in a Whole Foods was while I was on a weekend vacation in Philadelphia - I was looking for something I could eat in my Air BnB before going out again for the night (my budget could handle either dinner out or drinks out, not both). I think I got a little go-cup of falafel and a salad or something, for about 20 bucks.

Someone upthread mentioned Fairway, and oh hell yeah. I do a lot of biking to and from Red Hook in the summer, and about 75% of the time I end up with a couple bags of stuff from Fairway carefully balanced atop my front basket. Even if I tell myself I'm only going in for one or two things.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:32 AM on May 8, 2015


Metafilter: almost always anecdotal and silly.
posted by endotoxin at 9:32 AM on May 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


If you stick to Whole Foods store brand, it's the cheapest place I've found near me for tofu, seitan, soy milk, almond milk. Actually, if you stick to their store brand in general and aren't buying meat, it's a pretty good place to shop.
posted by the jam at 9:37 AM on May 8, 2015 [15 favorites]


Did anyone else hear the interview last year with Whole Foods CEO on NPR? The guy has chutzpah for sure, unapologetically coming off as someone who is only concerned with sustainability and healthy foods insofar as they continue to serve his vast profit margin advantage. I just didn't feel genuine concern for anything other than exploiting a profitable customer base.

But I guess it's silly that I would let my feelings define a brand, right?
posted by glaucon at 9:40 AM on May 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Wait, Millenials who get their movies for free, music for free, social media for free and use free services online are not willing to fork over Whole Foods money? I'm shocked...
posted by Chuffy at 9:43 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


The new outlets for Millennials will be called Whole True Foods.
posted by chavenet at 9:43 AM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that all the kombucha chia seed stevia sorbitol energy drink puke that is in all the cold drink cases at WF are just there to launder money or something. Nobody could actually want to put that stuff on their tongues.
posted by mitochondrial midichlorian at 9:47 AM on May 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


When I lived in Berkeley, Whole Foods was in my regular grocery store rotation. I got seitan, cheeses, and a couple of things from their prepared foods. I still love their kale salad and General Tso's tofu. I'd guess that my groceries came 10% WF, 10% Trader Joes, 20% Safeway and 60% Andronico's.

But then the financial crisis hit, and it hit me hard. Knocked me back to Houston, and there were several years of damn near homeless levels of poverty. I am *so* grateful that Mom and I managed to not lose the apartment during that time.

Now I'm back on my feet, saving what I can like a Depression child, and shopping 100% HEB and Krogers. I'd love to be back in the Bay Area, but I'm here because I prefer to have a savings account and not be one paycheck away from homelessness. Maybe I can get back someday.
posted by Ambient Echo at 9:47 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can you get $2 wine at Whole Foods? No? Bounce
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:54 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Krogers

Kroger has really upped their game in the past 10 years, at least in the wealthier areas, in no small part to keep up with the look and brand availability of Whole Foods. Plus, their produce is pretty much always better.
posted by mitochondrial midichlorian at 9:55 AM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Count me in for the nobody-I-know-shops-at-Whole-Foods sentiment. I certainly don't make enough to do it, and even the people I know making several times what I do stick to Ralph's, Trader Joe's, or, if they really have more money than time, get groceries delivered.

I used to shop at Fresh and Easy more often before they became mostly pre-made food; they're still convenient for the occasional thing, but the limited selection made me have to go to another store one too many times.
posted by tautological at 9:57 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Having a position on whether one should or shouldn't shop at Whole Foods is the new not watching tv.
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:58 AM on May 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that all the kombucha chia seed stevia sorbitol energy drink puke that is in all the cold drink cases at WF are just there to launder money or something

lol, yes. I always buy a "fun" drink when I go to Whole Foods or similar upscale or organic grocers in my neighborhood, and it's fun to try new things, but also kind of like... why am I buying this?! What even is it. Money laundering is the only explanation as to why they need an entire wall of this.
posted by easter queen at 9:58 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


We have a Whole Foods near us, and also a Shaw's. We do most of our shopping at Shaw's, but do stop at WF for a few things we can't get elsewhere, and a few products they just do better, occasionally. Only occasionally, because like five things from WF will equal $60, and most of their produce isn't any better, and it's crazy. We gave Market Basket a shot (it's a bit of a hike) but despite the cheaper prices, were just not that impressed by what they had to offer. TJ's is a pain to get to and the parking is hairy or we would go there more often.

That said, just this past week, a brand new grocery store has basically opened up on my doorstep at work -- a Roche Bros. It was my first time ever walking into a Roche Bros. And because it is smack in the middle of Downtown Boston, it is pricey.

And GLORIOUS. It blows WF out of the water. It has ALL the wonderful prepared foods and ALL the beautiful meats and cheeses and regular stuff that WF thinks is too un-organic or common or some crap to carry and a bunch of other stuff I have never even seen before. And the fact that I can walk out of my office, grab food, and hit the T within minutes, means I don't have to buy huge piles of grocery that will go missing and rot in my fridge. It's clear to me I'm going to replace all of my WF shopping with Roche from this point on, and a lot of my Shaw's as well, since it will mean I can pick up an item or two here or there, and I totally can see how people who live near a store like this, without a car, would opt for a higher end grocery for the sheer convenience, especially if it was one like this that just had quality and practicality in every square inch.

Also, our Whole Foods doesn't even have a cookie bar and we never even knew that was a possibility and now I feel cheated.
posted by instead of three wishes at 9:58 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


I got Whole Foods produce for a while when I lived within a mile biking and was sharing with roommates who demanded that everything be organic, GMO free, etc. (This was the same household that wouldn't keep a microwave around, because scary radiation.)

Then I realized that even when I bought the cheap stuff from the produce market downtown they still ate all the bananas before I could get to them. Haha suckers.

Now I live by myself with an adorable neighborhood produce store one block away and a microwave that I can use all I want. It's glorious.
posted by ActionPopulated at 9:59 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


To be fair, they're more cookie kiosks than bars. Although you do get a "free" decorative tin when you buy a certain amount.
posted by mitochondrial midichlorian at 10:00 AM on May 8, 2015


Before you all get too excited yes the cookie bar is cool but it's like 75% rugelach
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:03 AM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


As part of their new strategy they will be offering easy financing with low interest rates for their heirloom tomatoes.
posted by JackFlash at 10:04 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Come on over to Cambridge, MA. All locations, extremely crowded all the time. I know tons of people who shop half there and half at Trader Joe's. And then they say oh, woe is me, I actually have to deign to set foot in a Shaw's, to buy the one brand of boxed crackers I must have. Life is so hard.

Cambridge is pretty much a grocery shopper's paradise: 3+ Star Markets, I can't keep track of how many Whole Foods, a two Trader Joe's, Harvest Co-op, an H-Mart, and multiple small gourmet & ethnic markets. If you have a car you are also convenient to more Trader Joe's, a Market Basket, and a Price Chopper.

The reason people shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's is because Star Market is not appreciably cheaper and has terrible produce. And because they have time.

The real luxury in the end is having the opportunity, means, and time to shop at multiple grocery stores. Harvest has a good bulk section. Whole Foods has specialty and high quality meat and produce, plus a good bakery (for bread and such). Trader Joe's has strong frozen foods and cheap orange juice. Star Market has the most reasonably priced meat and all the regular grocery store basics and junk food. H-Mart provides East Asian products (focused on Korean, then Japanese, some Chinese/Taiwanese products). There's a Halal butcher near Inman.

Basically, unless you are poor and live in East Cambridge, you have a lot of grocery options in Cambridge. I'm not saying there aren't plenty of food snobs around, but Star Market doesn't have much to win me over from Whole Foods and TJ's if I have time to shop (which I do, and as noted I appreciate that that is privileged).

And if you're poor, you don't really have many grocery options anywhere in Massachusetts. There aren't even that many Family Dollar discount grocery stores in the Boston area (that I know of). That's why the Market Basket strike last summer was such a huge deal.
posted by maryr at 10:11 AM on May 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Before you all get too excited yes the cookie bar is cool but it's like 75% rugelach

That is why I love it.
posted by maryr at 10:12 AM on May 8, 2015


Apparently not shopping at WF is the new not watching TV.
I can currently afford neither WF nor cable. I do watch TV but mostly via Hulu or Netflix.

That said, not watching TV and going to WF aren't.... really comparable to each other? One is an act of non-consumption and opting out of a cultural conversation, apparently to make a point about what is "really" interesting, and one is an act of over-consumption and paying higher prices for a product perceived as "more luxurious." It's honestly kind of ridiculous to see people going "can't afford the prices at Whole Foods and don't think they're worth it" and imply that's an act of snobbery.
posted by sciatrix at 10:13 AM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Parsing warped equivocations is the new not owning a TV. Or is it?
posted by mitochondrial midichlorian at 10:15 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


I like WF prepared food. And I drank coffee in their cafe while charging the Volt for free. Otherwise nope.
posted by drowsy at 10:16 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I try not to shop at Whole Foods because their CEO is an asshat. And since they opened up a New Seasons (as well as a Green Zebra ) near me which is kinda/sorta local, there's not really much of a reason to go to Whole Paycheck anyway.

Now if only they'd open a Trader Joe's near me, I'd be set.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:16 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Whole Paycheck" is such an old joke it ranks along with writing "wash me" on dirty cars for hilarity value.
posted by josher71 at 10:20 AM on May 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


Whole Foods has done a tremendous disservice to the movement towards ecologically sustainable food in this country by turning the entire idea of harm reduction in agriculture into nothing but a status symbol for rich assholes. They are a horribly potent symbol of the pernicious idea that environmentalists are just trying to trick you to take your money, and along with all the industry folks working to create meaningless organic standards, they've damn near ruined the entire concept of ecologically sustainable agriculture by extending this stigma to organic food - which, if done right and with meaningful standards like Oregon Tilth, actually does help reduce bee-killing pesticides and ocean-killing fertilizer runoff while building soil resources instead of rapidly depleting them. Fuck Whole Foods.
posted by dialetheia at 10:27 AM on May 8, 2015 [23 favorites]


There's a school of thought that Whole Foods doesn't sell the exact same products as other grocery/supermarket chains do, but just sells more expensive versions of the same.

In other words, they're price competitive on a few products, but they're hard to spot. Maybe just the store brands.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:31 AM on May 8, 2015


Also, for snarking purposes, there are a few Facebook groups with the general name "Overheard [at/in] Whole Foods". The entitlement one can encounter at the store is breathtaking. I heard one mother gripe about an in store construction project making the store uglier, and them she made her son write out a complaint on a feedback card.
posted by ZeusHumms at 10:33 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ecological sustainability is a victim of its own success. Once it gained mainstream acceptance the wheels of profitability started to spin and everything else took a back seat, because capitalism.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:34 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Am not necessarily proud of this--I have history and people in the Co-op world, I understand a lot of the politics and economics--but I shop based primarily on where I am, when I am. If a WF is most on my route for any given day, I'll go there; same for TJ's or Berkeley Bowl. I would bet that I'm not alone in this.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 10:34 AM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


'When you looked at millennials' consumption patterns a few years ago, what you would expect is for them to be dining out more than anyone else, and just spending more money on food,' said Darren Seifer, food and beverage analyst at market research firm NPD group. 'But the recession changed that.'
Dining out is for when you want to spend money and/or save time on food. The grocery store is for when you want to save money and/or spend time cooking. Whole Foods is apparently for when you want to spend a bunch of money on food that you still have to take home and spend a bunch of time cooking. The equation was a bit different when they were the only game in town for organic/veggie/specialty foods, but today?
posted by gueneverey at 10:39 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


If anything, Costco is probably the millennial grocer of choice.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:45 AM on May 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


If you stick to Whole Foods store brand, it's the cheapest place I've found near me for tofu, seitan, soy milk, almond milk. Actually, if you stick to their store brand in general and aren't buying meat, it's a pretty good place to shop.

Yup. Great for veg*ns. It is also one of the best stores for allergen avoidance.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:46 AM on May 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


When I think Farm Boy, I think of animatronics. Sounds like WF is too stuffy for things like THIS:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=jBTlMki2kjs
posted by Yowser at 11:10 AM on May 8, 2015


What they need is a friendly cartoon logo. I Dig Mr. Pig.
posted by JanetLand at 11:12 AM on May 8, 2015


I always enjoy the squirm of the Whole Foods cashier when I pay for my GF bread products with SNAP benefits. So sorry, poor people have diagnosed conditions also.
posted by _paegan_ at 11:15 AM on May 8, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's quite odd to read this thread just after I've finished working with a bunch of customer data which included Farm Boy.
I'm having an odd 'it's a small world feeling' right now. My Metafilter and work world have collided....
posted by Jalliah at 11:16 AM on May 8, 2015


Perhaps some of us millennials aren't into Whole Foods because John Mackey, their CEO, is a union busting, anti-healthcare, environmentally apathetic, libertarian narcissist picture-of-me-on-a-book-in-every-store-aisle kind of asshole? and the food is too expensive? and they have no filter for woo?
posted by oceanjesse at 11:21 AM on May 8, 2015 [40 favorites]


Shit, I'm in my 40s and I only go to Whole Foods every now and then. I was going regularly for bulk granola for a while but I quit doing that for breakfast, and now I really have absolutely no reason to walk about 10 blocks to them when I could walk 4 blocks to Trader Joe's or 1 block to The Sketchiest Safeway In Seattle. (I mostly take the four block walk.) Also plus a weekly farmer's market a block away, I'm um kinda spoilt here.
posted by egypturnash at 11:25 AM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Perhaps some of us millennials aren't into Whole Foods because John Mackey, their CEO, is a union busting, anti-healthcare, environmentally apathetic, libertarian narcissist picture-of-me-on-a-book-in-every-store-aisle kind of asshole?

Yeah, a friend of mine worked at the home office and some of the stories she told about him personally were just horrific. It's still a decent place to get one-off treats, and when I lived in Austin I'd eat lunch there occasionally (the home-base store downtown is basically a super-upscale food court with a grocery store accidentally stuck in the middle) but between the prices and the parking lots, we plan for *months* for a raid and get in and out with our gallon jug of Dr. Bronners and obscure gluten-free frozen foods as fast as possible.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:30 AM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


prize bull octorok: "Can you get $2 wine at Whole Foods? No? Bounce"

Can't get that (or any other wine) at our TJ's either. Friends of mine have to drive to Ohio and smuggle cases of Two Buck Chuck back over the border.
posted by octothorpe at 11:34 AM on May 8, 2015


Pogo_Fuzzybutt - "...still a little broke in their 30s" - 62 faves
EmpressCallipygos - "...still a little broke in their 40's" - 74 faves
Thorzdad - "...here in the 50's" - 12 faves
jgaiser - "...the late 60's" - 4 faves
LOL @ actuarial data embedded in favorite counts.
posted by Rat Spatula at 11:34 AM on May 8, 2015 [27 favorites]


OMG that was not a cookie bar that was a PASTRY BAR with some cookies in it. So disappointing I bought a box of Nutter Butters to calm myself.
posted by The Whelk at 11:48 AM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Can you get $2 wine at Whole Foods? No? Bounce

Their "Three Wishes" is about $3 and it's not bad. Two Buck Chuck is regional anyway - some places it is actually $3 as well.
posted by theorique at 11:50 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


In the course of two major moves I've gone from a grocery glut to a relative food desert:
- a newly-expanded Super Kroger 1.5 blocks from my house and a WF and TJ's in the next town, where all the big-box stores are
- a TJ's, WF, Jewel-Osco, and Eataly all within convenient public transit reach
- a bunch of inconsistent groceries of differing brands, the busiest Costco in the nation, and a WF. And a decent CSA that we get biweekly.

We lean heavily on WF here in Honolulu because produce at the other groceries is just as expensive, and less consistent. We've noticed disappointing changes at our store, in the way many of you have, and stick mostly to the house label, the bulk aisle, and cheesemonger.

I miss my "handbasket method" at Kroger or Jewel: carry a handbasket rather than a pushcart. When it's too heavy to carry comfortably, check out. It's going to be under $50 unless you've splurged on wine or cheese. If I try that here, it's about double the cost, especially if I choose fresh meats.
posted by a halcyon day at 11:57 AM on May 8, 2015


> As I recall they already did try lowering their prices, and that didn't work because (A) they've already scared people off and (B) they have this reputation as an upscale place and lowering their prices out of the stratosphere could ruin that and they'd lose the clientele they still have.

I believe that they believe this, but it sounds like ridiculously expensive lazy thinking to me. They're going to acquire new real estate, create and launch an entirely new brand, manufacture new packaging, run a parallel set of stores...rather than just having their PR team do a better, more effective marketing campaign for Whole Foods (including awareness of their lowered prices.)
posted by desuetude at 12:11 PM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I miss my "handbasket method" at Kroger or Jewel: carry a handbasket rather than a pushcart. When it's too heavy to carry comfortably, check out.

This used to work great for me until I started weightlifting and then one day I simultaneously realized that I had bought maybe twice the amount of stuff I should have just because I was able to carry it and also that I had not trained so well that I could comfortably carry all the groceries I just bought all the way home.
posted by griphus at 12:18 PM on May 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


When I was a kid, we used to go to dinner once a week at "The Plaza". Basically the first food court in our town (I think the second mall remodeled shortly after "The Plaza" opened up).

For my kids, Whole Foods fills the same need. Everyone picks up the hot bar food or salad they want, I get a pound or two of my whole groats to take home, and Bob's your uncle.

Switching back to Sweet Tomatoes, though, because $8 a pound and tweenager growth spurts kinda hurt together. Economic Re-what? Could be back to worse again, I guess. #firstworldproblems
posted by tilde at 12:22 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


My current WF is on the edge of Porter Ranch, a well-off hillside bit of the San Fernando Valley, and it may be the emptiest grocery store in all of LA county

I can assure you that the stores on the southern edge of the Valley (Woodland Hills, Tarzana, Sherman Oaks, Valley Village) are all busy. Most of the time, they are "there are zero parking spots, fuck it I'm going to Gelsons) busy.
posted by sideshow at 12:30 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I continue to shop for certain products at WF including milk and eggs. I use the Cornucopia Institute's egg and dairy score cards and they're literally the only store within a reasonable distance that even carries items that are highly rated by that organization (for me it's mostly about the producers' practices with regards to how they keep and treat their animals). Sometimes I go to WF for meat though I do have a better option available in form of a family owned and run butcher shop that sells some of the best meat I've ever seen. Unfortunately it's quite a drive and the next best option for me is WF when I just don't have the time. Veggies and fruit we grow ourselves plus we get crates from a local coop.

But, yeah, I can't get around WF for certain items unfortunately.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:34 PM on May 8, 2015


Oh man, yeah, the Sherman Oaks stores are way too small... so crammed. Hate the Encino one for some reason. The Glendale one is probably the best around these parts.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 12:35 PM on May 8, 2015


I went in whole foods once, saw how everything there was overpriced by any standard, and never went back. I'm an old lady, but my kids prefer Trader Joes for this sort of stuff, as I do. Hearing what an asshole John Mackey is just makes me feel better about avoiding Whole Foods.
posted by mermayd at 12:38 PM on May 8, 2015


I went in whole foods once, saw how everything there was overpriced by any standard, and never went back.

You know, I hear the Whole Foods is overpriced thing a lot, including in this thread, but for the local Whole Foods, some things are overpriced. Some aren't. Notably, spices, yogurt, and pantry staples like canned beans are really competitive even with the low-end markets in town. The spices, in particular, were 50% cheaper or more -- the only place in town with lower spice prices are the ethnic markets, and I can only guess that because a lot more people bought those things from Whole Foods than from your standard Philly neighborhood market, WF were able to offer better prices.

However, processed foods were much schmancier (and correspondingly expensive), and all of the fresh produce was branded with organic, heirloom, ethically raised. On the other hand, the fresh produce were super nice and 80% of the quality of the local farmer markets/specialists at about 80% of the price. So. Y'know.

In my experience, It Depends.
posted by joyceanmachine at 12:54 PM on May 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


oh what a coincidence, my husband just got back from picking up cat food at the one place in town we can get the food that PickyCat will eat, which happens to be right next to the Pearl Street Whole Foods, and he was ranting about the breezy preppy gentleman who just stopped his SUV in the middle of the parking garage entrance, jumped out and just left it there with the flashers on blocking the entrance because he saw somebody he wanted to chat with and waved them down and just stood there chatting while all the other cars behind backed up outside in the rain.

Because, you know, everyone on earth has the time during the middle of a workday to wait for someone like this to finish their "just this once".

this is a place about which I once ranted on Facebook to the tune of dozens of "likes" that "where the rest of the city of Boulder cannot seem to house the homeless, Whole Foods sees nothing wrong with providing nicely designed metal roofed cart corrals so their patrons don't have to use snowy wet trolleys".

And Boulder has a never ending supply of this sort of white privilege to patronize the place: work-from-home tech executives, stay-at-home moms, trustafarians and venture capitalists of all stripes, and the entire undergrad populace of East Coast wannabe Ivy Leaguers who didn't have the right connections to make it into Colgate or Vassar.

Aspirational, that's the word I'm looking for. Whole Foods is as aspirational as starter mansions, white Lexus SUVs and Mansur bucket bags.
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:27 PM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


This "Economic Recovery" is taking so long to materialize that people who were a little broke in their 20s are still a little broke in their 30s.

Analysts called the April employment figures a "Goldilocks" report because it was just right for gains in stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average held morning gains of 250 points, briefly adding more than 275 points.
posted by bukvich at 1:36 PM on May 8, 2015


Snowden: “I loved working for a place that didn't do advertising, I have little-to-no interest in competing with Safeway/Ralph's on how much prepackaged crap we can peddle, and I think that when we look back on the history of WFM we will see that our prepared foods section was the source of much of the company's growth and it losing its way. There are a lot of us who work here who are sad at the changes, but also have no say anymore in fighting it... In the history of Whole Foods, the first 20 years (give or take) was a time where the model was pretty consistent: be the 'crunchy' store everyone spoofs these days.”

I really don't believe everybody spoofs that kind of store these days. Everybody tries to replicate it; that seems to be the problem to me. On one side, yes, Whole Foods seems to be trying to compete with big chain stores like Kroger; but that's because, really, they have to in order to sustain growth. Because there is nowhere else for them to go in the healthy supermarket dimension, I don't think.

I say this because Whole Foods was never actually anything novel to me, not even the old Whole Foods as we knew it twenty years ago (and I remember it then.) And that's because I grew up around places like Boulder and Santa Fe, where we always had at least a few of these kinds of stores. They seem to have come of age really in the early 1990s, when people realized (I think?) that they could really go for it with the actual whole-grocery model. In Santa Fe in the late 1990s we had a bunch of these things: Whole Foods, Alfalfa's, the co-op down Agua Fria. Alfalfa's got bought by Whole Foods and then closed down, I think, and a new Whole Foods got built a couple years later; but now there are some other things (like Talin) to balance it out. But it was something we knew, the healthy grocer that had some really interesting options, particularly for those who liked gourmet stuff.

As far as I know, Whole Foods was mostly unique in being the company that figured out how to take that model national in a way that was successful. But their success was their undoing, really. Taking that model national had the effect of introducing people in relatively option-poor places to more food diversity and healthy choices than they'd ever experienced; but that just created a market that was ripe for exploitation, especially since Whole Foods relied very much on the boutique vibe to assist its expansion.

I mean – I'm 35. I think the experience of most people my age is this: we learned of Whole Foods at some point, and it was pretty quickly ubiquitous, and we liked it. We liked it a lot. It was healthy and decadent at the same time, and it felt like fun every time we went; and at the same time we could get some really quality stuff that we found really enjoyable to eat, stuff that was healthy and tasty and overall fantastic. But at the same time we began to notice that it was rather expensive, and it was difficult to justify going there. And right exactly at that moment, we looked around and noticed that a whole bunch of great "health food" supermarkets who happened to be much cheaper than Whole Foods had sprung up.

And now I live in Albuquerque – which is mostly lower to middle class, not really much of a high-end market like the one they were chasing in Santa Fe. But I look around me and I see:

* Sprouts, a chain apparently successfully doing the "discount Whole Foods" thing – which I think a lot of stores are doing;
* La Montañita Co-op, about as expensive as Whole Foods but offering hyper-local meats and cheeses and operating on a co-op basis financially, which is more comfortable for me really;
* Talin Market, which is sort of a pseudo-Asian grocery that actually offers a vast array of international stuff and also the best selection of ramen I've ever seen in one place

Between all these options, I really have no reason ever to go to Whole Foods. If I want Licorice All-Sorts or really good curry paste or ramen or something weird I heard about and want to try, I go to Talin. If I want a special cheese or something really fresh produce-wise or some of those dried mangoes that are an addiction for me, I swing by the co-op. And if I just kind of want to shop for groceries, and want it to be relatively cheap, I either go to Smith's (our standard grocery store – my local, two blocks away, is great and staffed by great folks) or to Sprouts.

The only thing Whole Foods has to offer over all these places now is the luxury experience and, yes, the prepared foods. And that's just – well, it's just eating out, and there's no reason to do that if I just want to buy groceries.
posted by koeselitz at 1:46 PM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


koselitz the Alfalfa's on Broadway is still going strong afaik.

Whole Foods did take over the other organic place up on Base-Mar that I cannot recall the name of now, which we never shopped at because the quality / selection was so bad. It's now a smaller Whole Foods than the Pearl Street one, with even worse parking if you can believe it.

the Sprouts on Baseline is still going strong tho. All Hail Sprouts!

but yea, as someone said above, we mostly just shop at the Table Mesa King Soopers (aka Kroger) and Costco. Not Millenials, merely GenXers with zero patience for the Whole Foods brand of bullshit.
posted by lonefrontranger at 1:52 PM on May 8, 2015


Half-baked idea: if only the food distribution/supply chain were to be more transparent to users via an online realtime database. The consumer armed with the knowledge of what can be gotten, when, where, in what amounts and what quality—that would be awfully convenient if not empowering.
posted by polymodus at 2:04 PM on May 8, 2015


Whole Foods is like a library with shelves of magical realism fiction for me, which is probably why I can spend quite a lot of time in there just browsing. My biggest qualms about actually shopping there is 1. the CEO's politics and 2. the level of cultural appropriation in their products. For instance, they carry a beverage called That Indian Drink, which squicks me out a little. I'll say though, their fresh produce is heaps better than Trader Joe's.
posted by peripathetic at 2:09 PM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


<3 Sprouts!
posted by mitochondrial midichlorian at 2:14 PM on May 8, 2015


I should say that one of the things I've enjoyed about WF is their staff is often passionate about food quality, and in my experience they have actual recommendations for products and deli items. And they'll cook food for you while you shop— you can do your grocery shopping and come home with hot dinner at the same time. Growler fills are reasonably priced, too.
posted by a halcyon day at 2:30 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I liked and used Sprouts when I lived close to one, but I had to laugh at some of the knockoff packaged crap they carried, e.g. "Thin Wheats" brand crackers.
posted by scatter gather at 2:35 PM on May 8, 2015


Whole Foods was willing to open a big grocery store in Oakland back in 2007, back when most other big chains were still terrified to do so. There was a Lucky's on the other side of the lake, and a grocery outlet up off Broadway, and that was pretty much it for our area. I can tell you, all kinds of people shop at that store, not just rich white people from up in the hills. I have to give them props for their investment here, because even if you want to be totally cynical about it it gave people choices they hadn't had around here in years. The people that work there are way more fun than the people at any other store, too.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:42 PM on May 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Not to derail but "That Indian Drink" appears to have been created by an Indian husband and wife team.

As for my use of Whole Foods, I mostly like it for the butcher and fishmonger since it appears that they know what they are talking about vs. the traditional supermarkets around here. It is nice to be able to get some specific cuts of meats at a place that is convenient without having to go to the very hardcore, awesome butcher that is farther away and has more limited hours. I still go to the hard hardcore butcher but only for super obscure needs and if I happen to be near by.
posted by mmascolino at 2:42 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


mmascolino, I stand corrected! Still wish it wasn't called That Indian Drink though.
posted by peripathetic at 2:49 PM on May 8, 2015


lonefrontranger: “the Alfalfa's on Broadway is still going strong afaik.”

Ah – yeah, I mostly meant the Alfalfa's in Santa Fe, which was up Cordova on the side of the hill, round about the corner of Don Gaspar. As far as I can remember, Whole Foods bought the building and existed there for a year or two before building a new location in another part of town. That would've been around 2002, 2003? And now that I think of it there's a Wild Oats just down the street from there; not sure if it's there anymore. Also, about four years ago they put in a Trader Joe's a few blocks away. So – yeah. Lots of options.
posted by koeselitz at 3:23 PM on May 8, 2015


why does Canada have Whole Foods, but no Trader Joes? the world hates us.
posted by jb at 4:15 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


So I shop almost exclusively at WF (partly convenience, partly quality of food, and - god help me for saying it - a better in-store experience). My wife is a Trader Joe's fan, and sometimes I shop at a local family run supermarket as its always fast in and out. Rarely I'll venture to the nearest Safeway (a 24-hour store which always looks like a bomb has exploded in it - sort of the US version of this). WF is definitely more expensive, but surprisingly - and based unscientifically on my own comparisons - if you are mostly buying the WF 365 store brand and non-organic (especially meat) it works out not much more at all.

Why I shop at WF and pay the premium
- My toddler comes with me shopping a lot - its just a thing we do on a Saturday morning. He loves the mini shopping carts they have at WF and the fact they have a big machine he can squeeze orange juice from. He gets a WF kids club treat (normally a dried fruit wrap thing) and it makes his day. Weirdly it feels more of a learning experience when he's there. I'll talk to him about what coffee beans are as he watches someone grind some up, he knows how peanuts turn into peanut butter as we occasionally do the "make you own PB". He'll watch the Pizza oven work and the guy rolling the Sushi and ask questions about what they are doing. We'll try different fruits on sample in the produce section, and whatever health bar of the week is being tasted. He loves it, and often we'll be 40 minutes in there and only buy a couple of things.
- The meat is just so much better than anything I've seen at other supermarkets anywhere - nice dry aged ribeye, hmm.
- The fruit and veg is generally much better AND much better selection (Fejoia's from New Zealand, whoot!)
- They have ChaDeMo fast chargers in their parking lot for the car (which has saved me a few times)
- Occasionally simply because they take Apple Pay and I've forgotten my wallet at home.

All of this probably makes me sound like the stereotypical WF shopping, electric car driving, Apple Pay paying, west coast idiot. But on the flip side I've also lived in a food semi-desert (small island - boat didn't come in this week due to the storms, so no fresh veg or meat - type situation) and after that, yeah, WF is where I'm at.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 4:21 PM on May 8, 2015 [12 favorites]


Organic is a waste of money anyway. Aside from the pesticide spray thing, fine, but the definition is so loose that you're not necessarily getting local produce or produce that was raised under environmentally friendly conditions. And the "GMO-free" stuff is just anti-science fearmongering.

No-pesticide and GMO-free are actually opposed to each other, since genetic modifications are what can prevent some crops from needing strong pesticides in the first place.
posted by Rangi at 4:48 PM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I haven't shopped at whole foods since they stopped carrying cigarettes.
posted by spitbull at 5:02 PM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


> Apparently not shopping at WF is the new not watching TV.

Is this something I'd need a portobello mushroom to understand?
posted by Westringia F. at 8:23 PM on May 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


There are exactly five things I buy somewhat regularly at WF. Milk (about the same price as anywhere), fancy yogurt (same price and better selection), fresh ground peanut butter (pricy but worth it), fancy cheeses (expensive but ok selection, but the regular grocery store is catching up), and whole chickens.

The chickens in particular are an order of magnitude better than what is sold at regular grocery stores, though not quite as good as the even more expensive ones I can get at the hipster butcher shop.I don't know if it is a different breed or just better handling and supply chain management, but the difference in quality is impressive.

I'll sometimes pick up a few other things while I am there, but those are the only items I buy with any regularity. The store I go to is always full and with a fairly young customer base, but it is near a college; I am sure it is not reflective of the chain as a whole.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:03 PM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


My latest fun cooking game is to visit Safeway every two days and play the Meat Lottery. This works because I have a Safeway three blocks from my house.

Playing the Meat Lottery means dropping by Safeway and checking the 50% markdown clearance meat bin for expiring meat. But the rule is, most of the time you don't buy anything. This is why it's important to live more-or-less next door to the grocery. It's not about finding cheap, sad meat. It's about finding beautiful meat that was stuck in the clearance bin 10 minutes ago, or possibly by mistake.

You can't play the Meat Lottery mid-morning on a weekend. In fact, mid-morning any day is not great. Late evening is good, or crazy early. I keep weird hours, so this works for me. I also don't drive there, but instead stop by when I'm out on a walk or doing some other errand. Driving to the store specifically for this probably isn't worth it.

Half the fun is from gamifying shopping, and the other half is from the enforced randomness. It's a bit like Iron Chef where you find out the star ingredient and then need to improvise a meal around that. Like right now I am eating split pea soup because earlier this week I found a glorious 8 lbs spiral cut ham for $20. (This week I've also been eating ham and egg breakfast burritos, fried ham and potatoes, and also just ham. Pretty much ham 24/7.)

Yesterday I had a really beautiful usda prime ribeye at $10/lb. A lot of places you can't even find prime, never mind at that price. I salted it, baked it in the toaster oven at 230 for 45 minutes, then seared it on hot cast iron 2 minutes per side. Paired with a nice cab. It was amazing.


I think my way of shopping is the polar opposite of the Whole Foods mindset. And I'm not sure there's a generational hashtag for it. It's pretty cheap, really tasty, and even kind of fun.
posted by ryanrs at 10:42 PM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


The chickens in particular are an order of magnitude better than what is sold at regular grocery stores

At the Vancouver Whole Foods stores the wrapped whole chickens are $25–$35 or even higher. These numbers give me sticker shock, which is strange because that implies that when I used to live in the U.S., I had a) never bought the fancy chickens from Whole Foods, or b) bought them a few times but they were much cheaper (or possibly I was oblivious to the price??). I can't remember, and can't tell what was the case. How does organic chicken pricing vary across space and time?
posted by polymodus at 1:36 AM on May 9, 2015


A $35 chicken might as well be labeled @fuckpoorpeople.

But I once paid $35 for a small, old watermelon on Alaska's North Slope.
posted by spitbull at 2:48 AM on May 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


At the Vancouver Whole Foods stores the wrapped whole chickens are $25–$35 or even higher. These numbers give me sticker shock, which is strange because that implies that when I used to live in the U.S., I had a) never bought the fancy chickens from Whole Foods, or b) bought them a few times but they were much cheaper (or possibly I was oblivious to the price??). I can't remember, and can't tell what was the case. How does organic chicken pricing vary across space and time?

I don't track prices exactly, but I think a Whole Foods chicken usually runs about $16-$18, compared to a regular grocery store chicken at about $6 or $8. It's more expensive but also better quality; whether that equates to "great value" or "unaffordable luxury" is going to depend entirely on your budget.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:48 AM on May 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the love for trader joes.... I mean, it's not particularly expensive but it's also all preprepared and snack foods. Whenever I go I end up spending a ton of money buying stuff I don't need. Delicious stuff, yes, but not stuff that is good for me or my wallet. It's a fun trip with the themes and the samples, but I don't consider it an actual place to buy my groceries, let alone a cost saving one.

Of course, I live in a state where you can't buy wine or beer in grocery stores, sigh. Two buck chuck might sway my opinion.

Whole foods? Yeah, I've been there like twice in my life. /millennial/
posted by geegollygosh at 5:08 AM on May 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, I now do most of my grocery shopping at the price rite down the street so I get sticker shock stepping into Shaw's.
posted by geegollygosh at 5:12 AM on May 9, 2015


Trader Joe's greatest advantage for me is that the store is so small and has only one brand of any category so it's really easy to get in and out within half-an-hour. I've grown to hate giant supermarkets where you end up wandering around in endless aisles trying to figure out which of twenty almost identical brands of canned tomatoes to buy.

The only thing that bothers me about our TJs is that the employees seem to be like 99% white in a traditionally black neighborhood.
posted by octothorpe at 5:33 AM on May 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't track prices exactly, but I think a Whole Foods chicken usually runs about $16-$18, compared to a regular grocery store chicken at about $6 or $8. It's more expensive but also better quality; whether that equates to "great value" or "unaffordable luxury" is going to depend entirely on your budget.

Nthing this. A Whole Foods chicken is worth the $16.99 or whatever. It's the best chicken. I can fuck it up and it's still juicy. And I think of it not as great value or unaffordable luxury, but as about the price we should pay for meat, which should not be as cheap as it is, given its outsized environmental impact. I restrict my meat eating now by only eating it when I can afford to buy the really expensive stuff. Special occasion hamburgers, birthday roast chicken for les paresseux, etc. Not only does this feel like the right cost in light of the environmental impact, I also don't think there should be anything cheap about killing a living being, cutting it into pieces and serving it for dinner.
posted by dis_integration at 5:40 AM on May 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


My latest fun cooking game is to visit Safeway every two days and play the Meat Lottery.

This is roughly similar to one of Costco's tricks to get customers to show up more often. Put out nice stuff somewhat randomly, so that people keep coming back on little treasure hunts to see what fascinating nugget they might find. Little sleeves of Iberico ham. Chanterelle mushrooms from British Columbia. It shows up once, and then never again, but you get an itch to go looking for it, or something like it, on a regular basis. Just in case.
posted by gimonca at 6:56 AM on May 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Of course, I live in a state where you can't buy wine or beer in grocery stores, sigh.

Here, too. The standard Minnesota solution is to have a separate room for wine and beer, which is technically a separate enterprise with separate cashiers and so on. It's silly, but at least it's under the same roof.

parking lots full of feral SUVs with distracted drivers

Just trying to navigate the parking lot is an education in entitlement.

The first Whole Foods around Minneapolis opened about 10 years ago, just to the northwest of Lake Calhoun, in an area that's been trendy for decades. Parking there was a horrific white-knuckle deathmatch between power lawyers, aging hippies, and people like me driving from the other side of town. The location itself--squeezed in between two overworked thoroughfares that feed the passageway between the lakes to and from Uptown--doesn't help the traffic stress level, either. I haven't had a reason to go back in a long time. The little WF they opened in Saint Paul has weird, challenging parking as well.

The Twin Cities has a long and storied history of food co-ops, so it's not like you necessarily need a Whole Foods to get your natural whatevers. But two of the notable ones that I'd like to visit more (Wedge, Seward), also have terrible parking. Either of those are great if you're within walking distance (the areas are fairly dense, so many people are).

I just go to the Korean grocer down the street where I can buy what seems like two weeks worth of fresh vegetables and fruit for less than 20 bucks.

Very much this. My side of town has plenty of variety in groceries like this, particularly Hispanic and South Asian markets, not to mention the original Holy Land, and that's where a lot of my "I need a particular ingredient" business goes.
posted by gimonca at 7:34 AM on May 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think that shopping at a bunch of stores to get everything at the lowest price possible is kind of like driving to a gas station miles away to fuel up at a slightly lower price. The opportunity cost of the time spent shopping around somewhat offsets the savings achieved. Plus, going into a bunch of different stores increases your chances of buying unnecessary products on a whim.

I go to Whole Foods on days when most of the things I need are from there. If I had to feed a family I wouldn't be able to afford it, but for a single person buying small quantities of fresh food at a time, it's not too bad. It definitely encourages me to think twice before dropping something into my cart.
posted by mantecol at 8:31 AM on May 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I forgot that last year I had to go to WF several times for a sick relative on food stamps. You should have seen the eye rolls behind me on line when I whipped out the card. Colder than frozen quinoa pops. What-are-you-doing-here on ice.

Anyway, as a 1980s-90s Austinite hippie musician, I hold a special disdain for WF. Wheatsville 4EVA!
posted by spitbull at 10:00 AM on May 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


As a vegetarian/mostly vegan, I liked WF for things I couldn't find anywhere else (and not just overpriced subs but things like nutritional yeast, good tofu, whatever) as well as the occasional treat, but the one closest to me moved more toward "fancy meats and cheeses for rich people!" And then once I moved farther away, it was less convenient to shop there, and other stores (like Wegmans, which also isn't close) started carrying more products I was looking for. So I stopped.

I do like the pressure WF/Trader Joe's has put on regular grocery stores. I eat pretty simply overall, but I like high-quality ingredients. But I also like cheap. If I can find what I need at a place that's not Whole Foods, I'm happy to do it.
posted by darksong at 1:01 PM on May 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm in my late 20s and I'm broke and never won't be. Whole Foods is too expensive and I don't buy into the whole newage diet shit anyway. They have some things I can't find other places sometimes, but it's usually too expensive anyway.
posted by GoblinHoney at 1:34 PM on May 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, I've shopped at Whole Foods many times on food stamps, and I've not once had any "eye rolls" from anyone behind me nor any kind of negative reaction. From the customers nor from the cashier.

They are the cheapest option for some things. For example their Whole Foods brand organic white quinoa is cheaper than Trader Joe's organic white quinoa ( though their red is more expensive). They are cheaper for quinoa than the independent grocery in my blue color neighborhood where quinoa is priced as a "fancy" product ( you know, since it's real food). I can't afford to buy my quinoa anywhere but where it's cheapest, so I go to whole foods.
posted by Blitz at 7:55 PM on May 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Whole foods won't come out where I live, what with all the brown people and the blue collar workers, but Kroger did just build a big flagship store, so that's awesome. It's also forced the other chains nearby to up their game, so win win all around.

And I stopped giving whole foods money when I started researching the ceo. my feelings about them as a corporate brand were solidified with their gushing rush to bring food to the folks enforcing martial law, while doing not a goddamn thing for all the kids going hungry because they didn't get school lunch in Baltimore. That bootlicking 1% bastard can live without my capital.
posted by dejah420 at 8:40 PM on May 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Blitz, perhaps my eye rollers weren't used to seeing food stamp users. It was in particularly upscale area where this happened, the kind of place they don't like the sort who uses food stamps on general principle.


And thanks dejah. I wondered why we weren't touching the politics of the place, but its CEO is a right wing union busting anti -Obamacare maniac.
posted by spitbull at 6:36 AM on May 10, 2015 [2 favorites]


In fact I believe shopping at Whole Foods is pure hypocrisy when self-styled "progressives" do it for any reason other than necessity.

You're not progressive, you just like the aesthetic.
posted by spitbull at 6:39 AM on May 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


edgy, dude
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:44 AM on May 10, 2015 [4 favorites]


I have a personal assistant who ensures that my beret is tilted just so while she reviews the highlights from the latest in late-20th century leftist studies articles to prepare for my visits to Whole Foods.
posted by mitochondrial midichlorian at 2:21 PM on May 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Let me be more eloquent: our civilization is such that no one can survive without consuming things that were created or made available via terrible exploitation. Anyone who gives a shit about human rights (or animal welfare, or the environment) is guaranteed to do hypocritical things. You have to in order to survive, eat, wear clothes, live. So when someone picks out one individual thing that they don't do (e.g. shopping at whole foods) and then condemns everyone who does it as hypocrites, it's pretty shallow as a critique. You might as well say "people who shop at whole foods are people who live in the United States in 2015, WHAT A BUNCH OF FAKES!!"

It means nothing except that you've found a way to feel superior / smug. Which, congrats, we all like to feel superior / smug. But it's illusory.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:33 PM on May 10, 2015 [6 favorites]


Not for nothing, but I neither said nor implied any value judgement on what other people do, I stated why *I* do not give them money.
posted by dejah420 at 9:52 PM on May 10, 2015


I was talking to spitbull specifically. I'm genuinely happy for people to make ethical decisions about how to spend their money. I wish it were easier to do so in every aspect of our lives.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:58 AM on May 11, 2015


This is roughly similar to one of Costco's tricks to get customers to show up more often. Put out nice stuff somewhat randomly, so that people keep coming back on little treasure hunts to see what fascinating nugget they might find.

AFAIK, Trader Joe's does this too, and the spontaneity likely has to do more with the supply chain than the grocer itself.

I've always found Costco to have remarkably consistent staples if you account for seasonal availability. Occasionally something awesome shows up, but I've definitely never felt like I've had to play the "meat lottery" at Costco.
posted by schmod at 7:18 AM on May 11, 2015


Costco has terrible green, hard veg and an industrial bakery, but their meat is top notch. One really great thing is that they sell full primals, so if you're looking for a cut that's not common, or even just really thick steaks, they're the place. They're also good at local sourcing for their butcher too.
posted by bonehead at 8:05 AM on May 11, 2015


its CEO is a right wing union busting anti -Obamacare maniac.

In the recent Ottawa expansion, WF opened on Good Friday, which, though Christian, is a general civic holiday in Ontario. While the store was moderately busy, many viewed this as an anti-labour move. We only have 9 civic holidays a year; this isn't seen as a major business issue like the old Sunday closure laws.

They closed on Easter Sunday, after this went public even though they had planned to be open. Easter Sunday is another of the 9 holiday days. They've since been brought up on (civil) charges by the police.

Left a bad taste in a lot of mouths.
posted by bonehead at 8:12 AM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I forgot that last year I had to go to WF several times for a sick relative on food stamps. You should have seen the eye rolls behind me on line when I whipped out the card.

Twenty years ago I was going to Whole Foods with friends who used food stamps. No one cared. About five years ago I had a coworker who used food stamps, and I went with him to Whole Foods a couple times before we went to work. No one cared. The Oakland Whole Foods is seriously filled with all kinds of people- I'm sure at least 30% of the people who pass through have or know someone who has used food stamps (and that's not a racial reflection- many of the crusty or crunchy urban farmer hipsters, as well as students, artists, &c. will be on food stamps at some point, never mind poor families and older people on fixed incomes). Maybe it's because Whole Foods Berkeley has been around forever dealing with all types, and Oakland is extremely non-judgmental as a town, but no one gives a shit. It's a card, you swipe it.

I'd say the reactions you're getting say more about the place you live than about Whole Foods. When I would stop at the one up on California in SF wearing my gardening clothes, shoppers would assume I worked there since I didn't look like them- suits, Lululemon garb, pushing a stroller, &c. That's an issue with the people in that neighborhood, not that store.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:04 AM on May 11, 2015 [1 favorite]


My dad's buddy used to use his food stamps at WF routinely and no one gave him funny looks. And in the urban stores I go to, I see a very diverse clientele. I think there are some assumptions being made here based on assumed prejudices or anecdata or store-specific experiences. People who shop there and work there are just people, trying their best to be good people in this world.

As a counter point, or counter anecdata, as someone (late 30s) who now shops there regularly, I'll confess I love it. I don't like the fact that it is mobbed all day and the parking lot is a hassle, and sure I'd love to pay less (though, query how much food *should* cost given food insecurity issues, and note how much less of their income Americans spend on groceries than in the past and compared to most other parts of the world), and I have a few other issues with it.

But generally I love WF. We shop at Costco for paper products and bulk items about once every three months and at WF the rest of the time. Why? Well, it is fun with my toddler, though that is not the primary reason. We enjoy a hot breakfast then make our way through the store talking about and looking at fruits and veggies and generally enjoying ourselves. The produce and meat and dairy we buy is usually fresh and delicious and if it isn't, WF gives me our money back no questions asked. We buy 365 brand items wherever possible and that helps keep the prices down. (Btw, I don't think we pay anywhere near $16 for a whole chicken. I'll have to check.) We have learned to buy what's on our list and avoid impulse purchases which drive the prices way up. We have lots of options when it comes to choosing organic, free-trade, local, cage-free, etc. when we want them. For a year or so it was actually the diapers that got us in the store - 365 diapers are great and were the only diapers in the world that did not give our kiddo a rash, and they weren't awfully expensive especially when we got the 10%-off case price. The bakery has delicious bread when we want to splurge (otherwise 365 brand works well). The olive bar is fun for date night and dinner party noshing. I enjoy being there and then cooking the food we buy there. They carry products like plain baby yogurt that our Safeway and Harris teeter don't (those carry sweetened baby yogurt). They have way more fresh food than TJs, which I do think is a more affordable alternative for prepared foods. Yes, the cookie bar is a splurge (and sadly ours has no rugelach). Once I challenged my family to get in and out with a week's worth of groceries for less than $50 and we did it for $40 (family of 3) by choosing very carefully and mainly buying 365 brand items and veggies. We spend much more than that routinely because we aren't usually that careful and we do buy meat, but I know we can keep the prices in check if we try.

I realize this is tremendously privileged to be able to shop there and I am grateful to be able to at this point in my life. They are killing the market so it seems an awful lot of people feel the financial trade off is worth it too.

Full disclosure: after years as a Bread and Circus fan, my mom worked at a WF for twenty years or so as a cashier and then customer service rep. She generally loved working there until she retired last year. She felt there was team camaraderie, she loved her boss, she truly believed there was value in the 365 brand options and value in the luxury options vis-a-vis competitors (actually she swore that there was also value in comparable brands carried at other stores - I.e. the same Tropicana OJ cost the same at the closest regular grocery store if they both carried it), she believed in their efforts to vet and carry healthy products and products from reputable sources), and she is still extremely proud of their customer service and had a lot of jaw dropping anecdotes to back that one up. So I was predisposed to favorable views of WF, and when I could afford to shop there, I was glad to be able to.
posted by semacd at 10:53 AM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


But when I want high-end and variety, I tend to choose Mariano's.

Marianos: the grocery store where an actual live piano player sits in a cage made of wine bottles and, literally no shit, plays the theme from Downton Abbey on Saturday mornings.

It doesn't have a catchy punny nickname like "whole paycheck" so we just call it "End of Empire Groceries."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:36 PM on May 11, 2015 [3 favorites]


I just want to buy some goddamn lettuce.

Lettuce is literally just crunchy water. It is emptier than a vacuum.

Lettuce is dumb.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:13 PM on May 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lettuce is literally just crunchy water.

Iceberg
lettuce, maybe.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:31 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I only eat greens that you'll hear about later on after they get a record deal.
posted by mitochondrial midichlorian at 4:37 PM on May 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


Fun fact about Whole Foods: My cat's fancy food is cheaper there than it is at PetSmart.
posted by maryr at 9:22 PM on May 12, 2015


Down with lettuce. All lettuce should be flogged.
posted by turbid dahlia at 12:21 AM on May 13, 2015


And then waterboarded with balsamic vinaigrette.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:12 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


In the recent Ottawa expansion, WF opened on Good Friday, which, though Christian, is a general civic holiday in Ontario. While the store was moderately busy, many viewed this as an anti-labour move.

That really depends on the labour. I was recently working in a coffee shop that is open 365 days a year, and certain staff volunteered to work Christmas, Easter, etc, because it was time & a half, plus statutory holiday pay. (I did Christmas & New Years - it was great money).

The good thing to do for your workers is to make sure that you have a good manager and a system when people can express preferences. We had a request off system which was very robust; for the holidays, we weren't guaranteed our requests (off or on), but they worked to try to make sure those who wanted the day off got it.

Also: I pointed out that I don't celebrate Christmas or Easter. :)
posted by jb at 5:46 AM on May 13, 2015


Yeah, as has been pointed out a few times in the local media, Easter may not have been the best hill to die on for that one. But the civic holidays, I think many Canadians would go to the walls for: May Victoria/St. Jean Baptiste, Canada day, even Thanksgiving. There's no huge call to turn those into big shopping days. They're only a couple of days a year and the social benefit of most everyone having a day off outweighs the slight benefits of one or two more days a year open for retail.
posted by bonehead at 8:24 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


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