On the first Wednesday of every other month, I have a column called Wednesdays at Whole Foods. It showcases the most interesting news, products, store events, and happenings at the company.
A MARKET ON WHEELS
When Co-CEO Walter Robb first envisioned how Whole Foods Market could play an active role in improving fresh food access to underserved populations in this country, my guess is that trolleys were not on his mind.
But thanks to an incredibly enterprising woman in Portland, Oregon named Amelia Pape, the company may have found its most important and unexpected vehicle (no pun intended) to achieve this goal.
Having recently finished her MBA at Portland State in 2011, Amelia Pape felt a calling to tackle the food access problem as well.
So, she launched a successful Kickstarter campaign, bought a van, and started a mobile business called My Street Grocery. Her mission was to sell healthy food in areas of Portland where there was little access to grocery stores.
Over the following year, My Street Grocery started to gain real traction and Amelia eventually approached Whole Foods Market with her idea. Needless to say, the company loved what she was doing.
The two parties decided to join forces under the Whole Foods Market umbrella, and Amelia was given greater resources to pursue this business. Not only did the company let her pick her new title – Food Access Coordinator – but it traded in the van for a trolley.
While the Whole Foods Market logo can be seen in the front of the trolley, the business is still called My Street Grocery because of the tremendous brand equity that it has built up over the last few years.
The re-launched business currently operates from Tuesday to Friday and partners with underserved communities in Portland to show up at specified locations each week.
The trolley, whose goal is to break-even, offers a wide assortment of organic fruits and vegetables, and many 365 Everyday Organic items. The produce is sold by the unit, not the pound, which helps people buy on budget. For example, an apple is $.60 instead of $2.99 per pound.
The prices on the trolley are the same or lower than what can be found in a typical store, and SNAP benefits (food stamps) are accepted.
According to Amelia Pape, “A good number of people have no experience with fruits and vegetables, and don’t know what certain produce items are. Many of them do not volunteer that they don’t have a kitchen or don’t know what kale is.”
“But we’re not just selling food. We are building relationships with customers – helping people shop and budget, teaching them the value of produce, acting as a touch point for people who don’t have anyone else to talk to.”
She went on to say that “While some people are skeptical, many are very vocal of how grateful they are that we are here.”
Whole Foods Market has already opened up stores in underserved areas of Detroit and New Orleans, with plans to open similar ones in Chicago and Newark, New Jersey. While these are unquestionably fantastic endeavors, they take a lot of time and are very capital intensive.
That is why I could see Whole Foods Market eventually launch similar trolleys in every city where the company currently operates. This would allow them to reach more communities and underserved populations in a much faster way.
These trolleys have massive potential to do a lot of good in the world.
ON THE SHELVES
The following are products that are exclusive to Whole Foods Market and cannot be found elsewhere.
Does anyone at Suja sleep or are they just superhuman?
I am not sure there is a company in the entire organic industry that rolls our more new, interesting and smart products than these juice titans from San Diego.
The latest to hit the refrigerator cases are 49 oz. multi-serve options which come in six varieties – Apple, Cranberry, Orange, Easy Greens, Mango and Power Greens.
But the best part about these cold-pressed, organic, and Non-GMO Project verified juices is that each purchase provides a 25 cent donation to the Suja Elements Cause Collective, a group of different non-profits.
They come in two flavors – Lightly Sweetened Coconut and Lightly Sweetened Coconut with Hemp & Chia – and contain no corn, soy, or cane sugar. It’s the perfect item for when you want only a bit of something sweet. Great taste, excellent texture.
If you’re a big breakfast person and love your toast, you’ll definitely want to get your hands on these fantastic organic, certified Biodynamic preserves from Crofter’s. The spreads come in three flavors – Blueberry, Apricot, Strawberry – and are half the calories per serving versus other comparable preserves.
AT A STORE NEAR YOU
In Salt Lake City, the South Valley store is the first Whole Foods Market in the country to have an in-house creamery where ice cream, ice cream sandwiches, and sorbets are made on-site.
It also the very first store in the entire company to offer tea shots. Yes, shots of finely ground, caffeine-free, rooibos tea.
Instead of using vans for all of its deliveries, the Gowanus store in Brooklyn has teamed up with People’s Cargo to develop custom-made electric bicycles, complete with solar panels installed on them. These will be the talk of the town once they hit the road.
While there are plenty of other stores that have bars which serve wine and beer, the Coral Gables store in Miami is the very first one to serve Spanish-style tapas. Tapas y Taps, as it is affectionately known, offers a variety of Spanish favorites such as paella valenciana, tortilla española, caldo gallego, and albondigas en salsa.
The Poplar store in Memphis recently launched its own cooking school called Salud! With classes such as Knife Skills & Kitchen Essentials, Summer in Tuscany, Global Cuisine: Mediterranean, French Pastry 101, Teens Cook: Sushi Workshop, Summer Wine and Cheese Tour, Straight from the Pint: Beer-Based Recipes, Kids Cook: Grill and Chill, and Date Night: Latin Grilling, no wonder they’ve been selling out.
At the Tribeca store here in NYC, the very first Whole Burger is launching this week. It will offer meat, seafood and vegetarian options including grass-fed beef burgers, beet burgers and salmon burgers.
Whole Burger will also be serving up shakes, including traditional chocolate, strawberry and vanilla options, as well as vegan ones (vegan dark chocolate, vegan salted caramel, and vegan banana nut). Sauces include truffle mayo, five-spice aioli, and a balsamic glaze with toppings such as kimchi, avocado and salsa fresca.
MORE COOL STUFF
One of this year’s most anticipated GMO-labeling ballot initiatives will be taking place in Oregon in a few months time. Whole Foods Market officially announced its support for Yes on 92 and is part of a coalition called Will Vote for Food that is pushing for labeling in that state.
Oprah Winfrey sat down with Co-Founder and Co-CEO John Mackey for a rare conversation about mindfulness, creativity, and spiritual intelligence, and she called him “the perfect entrepreneur”. This is the most insightful and interesting interview that he has ever given. It’s a must-watch.
With reports of bee populations declining and Colony Collapse Disorder now a very serious issue, education about honey bees is more critical than ever. This coming year Whole Kids Foundation will award its first round of 50 bee hive grants for schools as part of the new Honey Bee Grant Program, an extension of the Whole Kids Foundation School Garden Grant Program.
It’s great to see Whole Foods Market heavily involved in helping to save the bees because they are so critical to our future.