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Who Owns Whole Foods?

There are many supermarket chains around the country, including Walmart, Albertsons, Kroger, and Whole Foods. Most of these stores are very similar, offering the same brands and products to customers. But Whole Foods stands out from the crowd as a company that cares for local and global communities and seeks to be good stewards of the Earth. 

Let’s learn more about Whole Foods and how it changed since an e-commerce giant acquired it.

What Is Whole Foods?

John Mackey co-founded Whole Foods in 1980 with Renee Lawson Hardy, Craig Weller, and Mark Skiles, leading the company for the last 22 years. Whole Foods began with just one small grocery store in Austin, Texas. With more than 500 stores in North America and the United Kingdom, it’s leading the world in providing natural and organic foods.

Through the decades, Whole Foods acquired numerous other grocery stores. That includes Wellspring Grocery in North Carolina, Bread & Circus in the Northeast, and Fresh Fields, which had locations spread across major cities in America. But it was just about growing in-store locations. 

Whole Foods has also always been about responsible sourcing, environmental stewardship, and community giving. People should know where their food comes from, so Whole Foods maintains strict quality standards and has a commitment to sustainable agriculture.

What Is Whole Foods Known For?

Many know Whole Foods for its high-quality products and its commitment to the planet. Natural and organic products line the shelves. Paper bags are the only option, and the staff prepares fresh seafood and meats daily. 

Whole Foods won’t put banned ingredients on the shelves, and wild-caught seafood must be sustainable. In addition, the company’s Sourced for Good program supports workers and communities where products are sourced to provide improved wages, health care, student scholarships, and trees to prevent erosion.

Pro Tip: We uncovered What National Grocery Store Has the Best Deli to help you decide where to grab lunch from.

Woman grocery shopping at Whole Foods
Enjoy high quality foods and fresh produce when shopping at Whole Foods.

​​Who Owns Whole Foods?

In 2017, Mackey sensed a hostile takeover attempt by investors and believed if this happened, it would ruin the brand. So he set out to find a buyer instead. Neither Warren Buffet nor Albertsons wanted to purchase the company. 

But Mackey found a buyer with Jeff Bezos. Amazon bought Whole Foods in 2017 for $13.7 billion. Whole Foods became an experiment for Amazon, which has stayed out of the realm of brick-and-mortar locations.

Who Was the Previous Owner of Whole Foods? 

Although Mackey ran the operations and led the company since its beginning, operating chief Jason Buechehl stepped into the lead role on September 1, 2022. There was no owner before Amazon purchased Whole Foods. The company operated under the guidance of a board and Mackey.

Product in brown paper bag from Whole Foods
Amazon buying Whole Foods has ushered in a series of positive changes for the grocery store chain.

What Changed at Whole Foods Since Amazon Bought It?

Since Amazon bought Whole Foods, a few things have changed. Some workers complain of worse working conditions and lower pay, but overall, there have been positive improvements for customers.

Lowered Prices

Whole Foods has always been a pricier grocery store. Even for people who want to support sustainable products and eat organic foods, it was too expensive to shop at Whole Foods in the past. This didn’t line up with Amazon’s commitment to low prices. 

By offering Prime discounts and lowering prices throughout the stores, Amazon has helped make healthy, natural products more affordable.

Private Label Brands

In addition to lowering prices, Amazon has also used private-label brands to help make shopping at Whole Foods more affordable. The 365 private label got a brand refresh in 2020. Almost 300 new products were added to the 365 line in 2021, bringing the total number to 2,200. 

By replacing products with the line, Amazon is slowly reducing prices for the customer.

Autonomous Shopping 

A palm print allows Amazon Prime shoppers to pay for groceries rather than using a card. This autonomous shopping leads to increased spending as customers don’t look at their wallets and have less caution when making purchases. 

It also raised privacy concerns among customers and led to a debate about the positive impact of this change.

Added Dark Stores

Amazon has built its empire through online ordering. However, online grocery shopping isn’t very profitable. Therefore, Whole Foods expanded to put stores closer to customers for more affordable delivery. According to CNBC, “Whole Foods says its 533 global stores can now serve more than 170 million customers in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.”

Another change is the addition of “dark stores” dedicated to fulfilling online orders. These stores are closed to customers. Like fulfillment centers, the stores can pull products and ship them quickly. Instacart no longer has a deal with Whole Foods to fulfill online orders.

Pro Tip: Have you ever committed any of these Seven Deadly Sins of Costco Shopping?

Is It Worth Shopping at Whole Foods?

Whole Foods has undergone some changes since Amazon took over a couple of years ago. But many of these changes are in favor of the customer. Lower prices, more selection of private labels, and quick online ordering have helped improve the experience. You can support ranchers who don’t use antibiotics or support the Whole Planet Foundation to help alleviate global poverty with your Whole Foods purchases.

Do you think the Amazon acquisition has made Whole Foods a better place to shop for customers?

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