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Whole Foods-ism - It's a Movement, Not Just a Store

Posted: 07/13/07 02:36 PM ET

Have you ever walked into a Whole Foods grocery store and really felt as if, well, you've entered into food utopia? I have. In fact, it's like this everyday.

That's correct; I find myself at a Whole Foods market at least once a day, and not just the same location, as there are four stores in my immediate area here in Los Angeles California. It's my feeding ground, my dedicated ritual, and yes, it's my hobby too. And just like most hobbies, this one costs money. My friends refer to it as Whole Paycheck in fact.

So what's my point? Really, that my fascination and insatiable appetite, if you will, for this one of a kind food phenomenon is in fact becoming a widespread and growing movement sweeping our society. And this is a good thing.

It's not just me who has been sucked in by the veritable array of imported wines and cheeses, richly colored produce, organic this-that-and-the-other, and every imaginable gourmet salad concoction with heart healthy grains that only .01 percent of America can pronounce (side-note: Quinoa sounds like keen-wha). It's America. It's becoming so America that you'll even find stores in many of the heartland states such as Wisconsin, Kentucky and Kansas. Who knew? Yes, Whole Foods is indeed sweeping the nation.

With nearly 190 stores and over 85 left to be built within the next few years (a major one just opened in London) it's somewhat of a necessary amenity to have near your home these days. Kroger seems so yesterday and so 90s. While no proven analytics exist, I'm guessing having a Whole Foods close to home will help increase real estate property value. Then again who can tell what's going on these days with the market.

Once you start, trust me, you won't be able to stop. Nothing else compares to the efficiency and deliciousness of food that would take the average domestic chef hours to prepare. And this is true at every Whole Foods. There is a level of consistency across the states that exist at each market. I can always count on Whole Foods to satisfy, deliver and maintain it's stature as food-leader supreme. And to think, all of this started one day with a mere browsing of the um-teen different cold and hot food selections. You mean I can eat all this and never have to cook?

I digress, but as I said earlier Whole Foods-ism is movement and it comes with immense loyalty. When I travel to New York, I strategically stay near the Columbus Circle location with their nearly 40 check-out counters so as to get me in-and-out as I rush from meeting to meeting. In fact, in any state I make WF a stop. I look forward to my visits. I always know Foods...(I'm on a last name basis these days) will satisfy my hunger and suck a few extra dollars out of my wallet as I break down and buy some newly invented baked good or $4 energy bar that seemingly is supposed to be good for me and nutritious. With each visit there a glimmer of hope that I'll find a new treat that didn't exist in the previous 30 locations that I've already 'shook-hands' with. Who knew that in Atlanta they could make such amazing Cajun Sweet Potato Wedges backed with a Citrus Glazed Alaskan King Salmon. (One of my all time favorites).

It's not just the food. It's also the experience and the people. My wife and I were in Texas the other week and we ran across a Peach Cobbler tasting contest. After only my 10th free-tasting, I happened to notice a live band on the second level playing some good ole Americana music. Huh, we don't have that in LA. We don't even have Peach Cobbler.

Friendly smiles aplenty and health conscious people abound -- each market has its own sentiment and unique character. Some of the best people watching also comes with any visit. As with any movement, it takes commitment and passion, and if you go to any location to savor the entire experience, you'll get hooked and join in. Some people actually referred to some locations as a consistent "Day-Club" for the many single bachelors fishing for not just the latest ocean catch. Maybe it's just in LA and New York.

As quoted from a recent press release: "Over its nearly 27 year history, Whole Foods Market has helped to revolutionize the way Americans eat and think about food." See, even they know they're on to something.

I say let this movement flourish. While the top brass may have gotten a little too wrapped up in their own movement (note the recent New York Times on Mackey's Blog gone wild entitled "Whole Foods Executive Used Alias") I still support that we Americans and the many states that haven't had the Whole Foods luxury should lobby for more stores. Wild Oats indeed is a good acquisition target. We should embrace the 'revolution' and support Whole Foods-ism and it's proliferation. They're here to help. They're here to make us healthy. Most discouragingly, Whole Foods is here to help us spend more money. As I always say, you can't put a price on health.