Written by: Kate Reidinger
Whole Foods Market is an American supermarket chain, originally founded in Austin, Texas on September 20th of 1980 by Mark Skiles, Craig Weller, John Mackey, and Renee Lawson Hardy; all of whom had been owners of different natural foods corporations. Whole Foods Market is known for exclusively supplying consumers with natural and organic foods, the market features foods without artificial preservatives, colours, flavours, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats. Obesity and health has always been a major concern for the U.S. population; as many Americans are looking for healthier alternatives to improve their intake, many desire natural and organic diets. The establishment and growth of Whole Foods Market is extensively helpful as it provides the people with a simple way of healthy consumption as the store is easily accessible and has a wide range of foods. Statistics from 2015 show that there are 431 Whole Foods Markets Globally, with exceptional growth which persists. The organic food market Whole Foods seeks to expand to 1,200 stores in the U.S alone; Co-CEO John Mackey sees it as a great potential for the business as he told CNBC “the world is continuing to change.”. Whole Foods Market, being a growing national and international business, has many strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, as well as threats; all of which contribute to the business today.
Whole Foods Market is a business which has many strengths. Being a natural and organic foods market, Whole Foods is a quality brand; which gives it the ability to sell products at a higher price than competitors. The industry of just organic and healthy foods is limited, and operating in it serves as a strength because Whole Foods Market offer the most variety of healthy foods. Quality and high standards has allowed Whole Foods to gain a “15% same store sales growth”, (“businessweek.com”, 2005) Due to social trends that are present with awareness of how healthy eating contributes to long-term wellness. Middle aged people as well as millennials feel encouraged to join the trend of eating healthy and sustaining and improving their well-being while increasing demand of the products provided by Whole Foods. Another strength of Whole Foods Market is that it benefits from a younger generation that values sustainability of food and ethical trade, making the business of Whole Foods Market ethical and socially correct. Consumers of Whole Foods Market are wary about the origins of their own food and have environmental concerns. Whole Foods takes the issues under account and manages to provide a market and stock which meets consumer demands. “As the strongest brand in the natural and organic market industry, WFM should continue to make gains among the health conscious who want to fuel their bodies with the most natural and pure ingredients possible.” (Publishing, 2016)
Though Whole Foods is a successful business with many strengths, it also has weaknesses. These weaknesses include consumer perception, dependence on the American market, and management strategy. With regards to consumer perception, many individuals think the products of Whole Foods are overpriced. So much so, that there is even a nickname with negative connotation for Whole Foods Market; the nickname being “Whole paycheck”. The nickname “Whole paycheck” for Whole Foods supposedly represents the view of many people, that the price of the products are quite high and can take up a customer’s “whole” paycheck. Though prices are indeed higher, and higher than their competitors prices, the quality is also higher; therefore, it is fair. However, it is hard for Whole Foods Market to eliminate this perception among lower and medium income households, forcing many consumers to stray to or remain at more affordable but less healthy options. Dependence on the American market is also a weakness Whole Foods has had to deal with as “in fiscal 2015, the United States accounted for roughly 97% of 2015 revenues for the company. This dependence on the U.S. market makes it vulnerable to downturns in its economy.” (Publishing, 2016). Another weakness would be that Whole Foods Market has yet to increase expansion on their stores in other countries. The majority of their stores are in the United States, and only several are located in other countries such as Canada and the U.K. Lastly, management strategy is one which can be disadvantageous towards the business, as each store is given the ability to manage itself. Each store is different in terms of location, distribution, and products. This is a weakness as the same business of Whole Foods Market does not carry the same product in every branch, leaving the control and responsibility in the hands of store management instead of corporate management, with decisions made at local division without corporate sector approval.
Whole Foods Market has many opportunities to succeed. It has the opportunity to expand through acquisition and marketing through enhancement of brand image. This would introduce people to the Whole Food experience, ultimately increasing sales and attracting new customers. Whole Foods, being a natural and organic market providing healthy foods, can use tactics such as inducing fear amongst people by informing them about dangers of pesticides, hormones, processed, and chemically treated foods; all foods that are found in ‘normal’ supermarkets, but not at the Whole Foods Market as they supply only natural foods. Educating others on the consequences and disadvantages of unhealthy and unnatural intake would encourage people to buy organic.
The greatest threat of the very successful business would be competition. Though Whole Foods Market is doing well in the business economy, there are other markets dedicated to natural and healthy foods, such as Trader Joe’s. Another threat to Whole Foods Market would be the negative publicity. The public perception of Whole Foods products being expensive and overpriced is somewhat contagious amongst low income and middle income citizens, which may discourage or prevent some individuals from shopping at Whole Foods Market.
In Conclusion, Whole Foods Market is a very successful business. Its ethical provision of a variety of healthy, organic, and natural foods make it more appealing to customers. Though it has weaknesses and faces threats, Whole Foods Market has more strengths and opportunities to continue thriving in business.