Somehow I doubt anybody was expecting anything too stellar from Whole Foods Market's (NASDAQ:WFMI) first-quarter results, given the continued economic hardship consumers are experiencing. However, the organic grocer did perform better than analysts expected.

First-quarter net income dropped 17% to $27.8 million, or $0.20 per share. The company's earnings included $0.05 in legal expenses related to its continuing situation with the Federal Trade Commission. (The company said the FTC has agreed to suspend its antitrust review until early March as the two continue talks to come to a resolution.)

Revenue was about flat on a year-over-year basis at $2.47 billion. Same-store sales decreased 4.0% compared to a hefty 9.3% increase this time last year. How times have changed.

Whole Foods did offer some heartening news, such as managing to generate $31.8 million in free cash flow. Its guidance was also better than anybody expected. However, the company has its work cut out for it. After all, it's had to prove it has values in its gourmet aisles as consumers have become more and more price-conscious. We all know that Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) have been good performers here lately due to the newfound interest in saving money. (Of course, even Wal-Mart reported a flagging profit in the fourth quarter.)

Several months ago, I took a peek at Whole Foods' Form 10-K and acknowledged that the company has become a much riskier investment than it was in the past, given its continued wrangling with the FTC and its debt load thanks to the Wild Oats acquisition, not to mention the major economic headwinds at work. However, at the moment I'm not quite as frustrated with Whole Foods as I am with Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX), which has been making some moves that have struck me as a bit desperate.

Whole Foods' stock is surging today, and as a shareholder I can't exactly complain about that. Plus, as I said a few months ago, the organic grocery stock may include a lot more risk, but that did manage to knock its price down to cheap levels.

I still believe in Whole Foods' business and mission, but can't deny the challenges and risks. On the other hand, I'd still rather be invested in a unique, innovative company like Whole Foods, as opposed to conventional grocers like Safeway (NYSE:SWY) or Kroger (NYSE:KR). I can't deny the risks, but I think investors who have grabbed shares of this unique, quality-focused business at beaten-down levels will reap rewards in the long term.

Whole Foods Market and Starbucks are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Wal-Mart Stores and Starbucks are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. The Fool owns shares of Starbucks.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Whole Foods Market and Starbucks. The Fool has a disclosure policy.