Monday, August 25, 2008

Whole Foods and the Stones

I have a couple of notes here about Whole Foods Supermarket. My wife's recent plunge into organic and natural foods has required multiple visits recently, to Whole Foods (and the bank) for coconut flour and the small fotune required to purchase this gift from the gods. I should say that I love Whole Foods and the idea behind it.

Two articles from the NY Times this month on Whole Foods. One, “Whole Foods Looks for a Fresh Image in Lean Times,” covers the chain’s troubles trying to expand beyond the right-tail portion of the pool of grocery shoppers. There’s an underlying implication that this is due to the stagnating economy this year, but really, this was inevitable. Nearly every high-end brand eventually tries to move downmarket because the high-end market isn’t large enough to sustain the growth rates the company and its shareholders want to see. Whole Foods has been slowly moving left on the income curve through two efforts: one, becoming more competitive on packaged goods that are also available in other chains. Two, educating more consumers on the benefits of natural and organic foods. The media has helped on the latter front - a case of left-wing media bias of which I actually approve - but Trader Joes, also rapidly expanding, is a serious thorn in Whole Foods’ side on the former front. Think Two-Buck Chuck.

Indeed, we split our shopping among several stores, and we buy a lot of staple packaged foods at Publix, including olive oil, balsamic vinegar, organic sugar, nuts, roasted red peppers, vanilla extract, eating and baking chocolate, and even specialty items like pizza dough and Parmiggiano-Reggiano ($5/pound cheaper than Whole Foods).

The second article, of course, covers Whole Foods’ response to their recent recall of ground beef. I do cook my burgers at least to medium, which helps. More importantly, however, I was unaware that Whole Foods sold any beef that wasn’t ground in the store. Why would I assume that they were buying ground beef made elsewhere? And, as the Times article points out, why on earth are they doing business with a processor with a history of safety issues?

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Rolling Stones

Chess Records Outtakes, 1964
01 High-Heel Sneakers
02 Tell Me Baby
03 Down In The Bottom
04 Looking Tired
05 Stewed And Keefed

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