Friday, November 11, 2005

Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods Market Produce Department

One of the local PBS television stations in Southern California (KLCS-TV in Los Angeles) is re-broadcasting some of Julia Child's old cooking shows -- always a delight! In these episodes, Julia was the ever-willing cooking student while guest chefs and experts prepared delectable dishes.

Seeing these shows reminds me of another interview that she gave near the end of her marvelous career. The interviewer asked her how she would persuade people to eat organic products.

In her throaty warble, she said something to the effect of “Well, you know of course, I would simply tell them why I use organic products as often as possible – they just taste better!”

And there you have it! The Ingredient Sleuth has to chuckle at Ms. Child’s astute commentary on human motivations. I find it somewhat difficult to justify prying my wallet open to pay more for a product simply because it MAY be healthier. Somehow, that always seems like a long-term investment – easier to put off for the future.

But, if I know that the product in question is just going to taste SO much betternow -- my short-term gratification impulse goes immediately into overdrive. Zap! The wallet cooperates with only a faint whimper!

Whole Foods Market is capitalizing big-time on this realization. Founded in 1980 as a single, small store in Austin, Texas, this grocer is now the world’s leading retailer of natural and organic foods. There are 178 stores in North America and the United Kingdom.

The stores are large, supermarket-sized, spacious and filled with plenty of products to complete even the most-extensive of shopping lists. Whole Foods believes in local sourcing all over the world from small suppliers who are uniquely dedicated to providing the highest-quality products.

In California, for example, three suppliers were recently publicized in a Whole Foods newspaper advertisement that announced a regional “community support day” in which 5% of that region’s Whole Foods stores’ net sales was donated to California Certified Organic Farmers organization (to assist with organic certification programs, trade support and educational programs).

I really like the idea of buying products that have come from suppliers with profiles like these:

BE WISE RANCH, San Diego: A major supplier of organic heirloom tomatoes to Whole Foods, Bill Brammer has been farming organically for almost 30 years and assisted in the definition of the organic standards that define the industry today.

T & D WILLEY FARMS, San Joaquin Valley: Tom and Denesse Willey grow organic basil for Whole Foods and also specialize in organic winter squashes. They believe it is their life’s mission to educate people about the benefits of sustainable farming, so that our precious farmlands are available to support healthful foods for future generations.

WINDROSE FARMS, San Luis Obispo: Bill and Barbara Spencer began farming organically because of Barbara’s sensitivity to pesticides. For Whole Foods Market, they specialize in herbs and provide mint, basil, rosemary, dill and other seasonal varieties.

In the Whole Foods produce department, all produce offered is labeled with its geography of origin and is clearly identified as either “organically” or “conventionally” grown. Over time, as more and more organically-produced products have become available in larger volumes, the organic share of the produce complement has grown.

The stores feature foods that are free of artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners and hydrogenated oils. Bakery, meat, fish, cheeses from all over the world, ready-to-eat deli items, vitamins, wines (organic and otherwise) – ingredient sleuth heaven!

Some of my favorites:

  • organic Yukon Gold potatoes,
  • 365 (Whole Foods' private label brand) Italian sparkling mineral water,
  • sage honey,
  • free-range organic chicken,
  • Les Coccinelles (the ladybugs!) red wine,
  • nutty Emmenthaler cheese from Switzerland,
  • those organic winter squash from T&D Willey Farms,
  • tiny-and-pink lentils in bulk bins ...

is it possible to have dozens and dozens of "favorites"? For me -- yes!

Whole Foods has been included in Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” every year since 1998 and holds the #30 position in 2005. And then, to top it all off, CEO John Mackey recently began a blog ( which includes commentary on the business and social issues related to the company's role in the retail grocery industry.

At the Whole Foods Market website (, internauts can search for whatever food topic interests them. There is a huge assortment of sensible recipes there as well. There is NOT, however, an online shopping service. But, there IS a list of the current 178 locations with street addresses and phone numbers for shopping expedition preparation!

Let’s see – where’s that shopping list of mine. My closest store location is 20 miles away, in Tustin, but there are favorites to be bought – because they will just, simply, TASTE so good! So, as Julia would warble, “Bon appetit!”


ChrisWoznitza said...

Hi I´m Chris. Greatings from Germany Bottrop !!

kristi said...

Whole Foods is my favorite supermarket in the Atlanta metro area. I'll go out of my way to go there too!

Hay said...

Good info!

gabriella said...

This makes me hope that I was back in the states again for my food shopping!

bill&karen said...

We have two Whole Foods markets here in San Diego and go there all the time on the weekend because they have such good pastry items for breakfast. We like the wine selection too and also the cheeses that come from Spain and France.