Is Whole Foods Really a Good Business?

Is Whole Foods Really a Good Business?

Quinn Kennedy

If you don’t know about the new Whole Foods opening in Buffalo, you’ve probably been living under a rock. The trendy, organic supermarket recently opened on September 15th on Sheridan Drive at the intersection with Niagara Falls Boulevard. Construction began in July 2016 and cost around $15 million.

Many Buffalonians are seeing the addition of Whole Foods to the area as a positive change, which is understandable. For example, the addition of the store will bring 165 new jobs. Additionally, Whole Foods made Fortune’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in 2014. Whole Foods also comes with mostly excellent healthcare for its employees. The new Whole Foods might possibly revamp the area it is in as well because it may bring other new and trendy stores to the old Northtown Plaza, which was in decline before it was demolished. The new trendy stores are also needed because the Boulevard Mall has been steadily going downhill for years. Though all of these pros put Whole Foods in a positive light, we still have to remember that they are a corporation and with big business comes questionable business practices.

Though Whole Foods collaborates with local and smaller brands, it ultimately puts its own brand first. For example, Whole Foods has been criticized for marking up the prices of local brands to promote their own brand, leading to customers usually picking their cheaper option. Also, even though it is said that Whole Foods treats their employees well, even giving them roughly twenty percent discounts, they still do not offer mental health coverage. Considering that one in three Americans have suffered from depression at some point in their lives, this could be very consequential for employees who need therapy or medication but cannot afford it. This doesn’t come as much of a surprise once you learn that John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, wrote an article criticizing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However, there would still be many people choosing to overlook these controversies because Whole Foods still sells organic foods. In some Whole Foods stores, there is a banner listing reasons why you should buy organic, one of them being that it saves energy with a description next to it. This is true for some places in the country, but not others. On the East Coast, it could actually save more energy to buy regular produce grown in closer areas as opposed to buying organic produce from California because of the transport. Many of the country’s organic farms are in California. If you are an environmentally conscious person, buying regular instead of organic would be better for saving energy, despite Whole Food’s misleading banner. Whole Foods priding itself on being organic and pro-local farmers has proven itself to be not one-hundred percent true in other ways as well. For example, in 2011, the Organic Consumers Association criticized Whole Foods for selling food that contains GMOs. Whole Foods admitted this by saying that by 2018, all products containing GMOs would be labeled as such.

Though Whole Foods isn’t all bad and definitely has its benefits, we Buffalonians still have to remember that Whole Foods is a big business, not your local farmers market.