Whole Foods is a clear example of a mission-driven company. Over the years, they’ve taken strong activist stances on a number of topics related to healthy living. In fact, they are one of the few big corporations that I’ve seen actually link to their values as a main navigation element on their homepage. You’ve probably also seen these same values posted in your local store. I think this is awesome.
This week, in the Wall Street Journal, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, wrote an editorial entitled The Whole Foods alternative to Obamacare.
I see the strategy… a few weeks ago, Whole Foods launched a campaign to help empower Americans to lead healthier lives. At the campaign launch, Mackey even said Whole Foods is going to reverse the 14 year trend toward having more pre-processed food in their stores. I’m sure this editorial was one piece of a larger campaign strategy. And certainly most people would agree that Americans could use a healthier diet.
In moving from talking about healthier food into talking about healthcare, Whole Foods has hit on a massively politicized issue. When your core customers lean to the left, and as a corporate leader you take a position to the right, you take a risk that people might start to question whether they really affiliate themselves with your brand promise.
Since the editorial ran, customers have lit up the Whole Foods Market forum on the website. When I look at the forum, the discussion has been shut down. A sample:
After reading this piece in the WSJ not a penny more of my hard earned money will go to Whole Foods. It appears to me that the CEO is out of touch with what his consumers feel and I would guess his employees as well. As there are a multitude of farmers markets, stores, and co-ops that provide healthy organic options in NY I think the best way to vote will be to vote with my purse. Goodbye Whole Foods, in the past I didnt mind paying a little more for healthy foods with a strong social conscious, seeing as how you’ve lost your conscious you’ve also lost my business.
It will be interesting to see how Whole Foods handles things over the next few days. They’ve had issues like this in the past and have always managed to recover. I wish them the best of luck, my fresh food choices in Raleigh are still limited, and I believe very strongly in the core values of Whole Foods and what they stand for as a company!