Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFM) is more than just a grocery store. It has changed the way many of us think about food. In one sense the company brought joy to the experience of eating food. For some, that joy came from the greater availability of products suitable for their dietary needs. To others the joy is about experiencing food the way it was intended to be consumed. It has a freshness, a wholeness and quality that was just lacking elsewhere.
Beyond just providing food for our bodies, the company has taken its holistic approach a step further by focusing on sustainability. This spawned a mission-driven company that aims to make the world a better place.
Because of its values, Whole Foods has achieved amazing growth since its humble beginnings. The company opened its first store in 1980 with just 19 employees. Today, the company has 399 stores with more than 80,000 team members. It's now the eighth largest food and drug store in the U.S. However, beyond simply providing food that brings joy, Whole Foods is an incredible company. Here are some of the things the company does that make it really stand out.
This store is bigger than a football field
It's probably not a surprise that the largest Whole Foods location is in Austin, Texas where the company got its start. The flagship store is 80,000 square feet and the company's headquarters is located above the store. For an idea how big this store is consider this: The average football field in America is 57,600 square feet. It's an amazing facility that also has a 25,000-square-foot roof garden and plaza with 200 shaded seats, a space for entertainers, a playscape, a flowing stream and native landscaping. It even has an ice skating rink which is open during the holiday season so the community can enjoy some holiday fun.
Whole Foods is more about the give than the take
Whole Foods might be known to some as "whole paycheck" because its prices are higher than most other grocery stores. However, the company isn't focused on profits over people. Not by a long shot. It is a given that each of its stores donates food to local food banks and shelters. On top of that, the stores hold community giving days, or 5% days, where 5% of that day's net sales are donated to a local non-profit. Then on a more global level the company has three foundations: Whole Planet Foundation, Whole Kids Foundation and Whole Cities Foundation that work on causes on a more global level. Finally, the company's Local Producer Loan Program provides low-interest loans to small, local producers to help small farmers get the money they need to produce food in a sustainable and environmentally responsible manner.
High standards means turning business away
Whole Foods isn't afraid to turn away products. The company is focused on only selling the highest quality organic and natural products. Because of this the company acts as buying agents for its customers and not as a sales outlet for manufactures. The company even maintains a list of unacceptable ingredients for food that it won't sell in its stores. Food products that contain artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners, and hydrogenated fats simply aren't welcome at Whole Foods.
CEO John Mackey is a Fool!
Whole Foods was co-founded by John Mackey in 1980. He's done very well for himself and is to the point where he's financially comfortable and no longer wants to work for money. It's a place few entrepreneurs or executives ever find as they almost always desire to obtain more wealth. Not so with Mr. Mackey, who since 2006 has worked for just a dollar per year. Not a gimmick or to hide other compensation as he receives no bonuses or stock options. He just knows when enough is enough and instead of focusing on money he's focusing on making Whole Foods and the world it touches better each and every day.
Because he's not working for money, Mackey is focused on pursuits that align with his values of improving the heath and well-being of the world around him. That's why he serves as chairman of the company's Whole Planet Foundation, which has a mission to alleviate poverty in communities around the world through providing microcredit to make products sold at Whole Foods stores. He co-founded the Conscious Capitalism Movement, which challenges business leaders to operate and think beyond just the bottom line. He's on the board of directors of several other organizations with missions to make the world better, including The Motley Fool, whose mission is to help the world invest better.
Consciously improving life
Whole Foods might sell groceries, but this is a mission driven company. It's focused on providing its customers with a healthy atmosphere that is a fun place to shop and a light to the community and world around it. It's a company led by a visionary leader who isn't focused on filling his pockets with more cash, but instead focused on making the world around him better. It's a company that can teach us a lot, not just about eating healthier and sustaining our environment, but by looking at how we too can make the world around us just a little bit better.