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Wednesdays at Whole Foods – A FANTASTIC New Rating System, Craft Time, Gone Fishing in Peru

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.


While it may not have received as much national attention as the decision to label all GMOs in its stores by 2018, the announcement by Whole Foods Market to introduce a new rating system for flowers and produce could prove to be equally as important.

Beginning in September 2014, Whole Foods Market will present customers with a three-tier rating system and begin displaying ratings of “GOOD,” “BETTER” and “BEST” throughout the produce and floral departments.

With the help of sustainable agriculture experts and with considerable input from suppliers, Whole Foods Market has developed a science-based index to measure performance on important sustainable farming topics, including:

– Pest management, including prohibited and restricted pesticides
– Farm worker welfare
– Pollinator protection
– Water conservation and protection
– Soil health
– Ecosystems
– Biodiversity
– Waste, recycling and packaging
– Energy
– Climate

The program will recognize organic growers for the investment and achievement represented by organic certification while highlighting additional responsible practices, including farm worker welfare and resource conservation. The ratings will also reward suppliers for certification by a number of leading social and environmental standards including: Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Protected Harvest, and Demeter Biodynamic certification.

Edmund LaMacchia, global vice president of perishables, said that “the new produce ratings will provide deeper transparency to our shoppers, helping them make conscious choices while also celebrating the great work and responsible practices of growers beyond their organic and local efforts.”

I couldn’t agree more, and why I believe this announcement is so significant is because not nearly enough of our attention is paid to the amount of toxic pesticides that we spray on our crops. Not only do these chemicals ruin our water supply and sicken farm workers, but they have no business whatsoever being in our bodies.

The President’s Cancer Panel agrees. With 41% of Americans expected to get cancer and 21% of Americans expected to die of cancer, the panel’s report says (PDF) to choose food that is “grown without pesticides.”

In my view, Whole Foods Market’s new rating system will discourage the purchasing of pesticide-sprayed produce and flowers since people will naturally gravitate towards buying items labeled as “BEST”. As a result, it could cause a decrease in the amount of toxic chemicals used on our farms and incentivize more farmers to go organic.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely LOVE this initiative.


Looking for some holiday ideas that are creative, fun, and affordable?

Thanks to a new partnership with Etsy, the Internet’s leading e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items, Whole Foods Market stores nationwide are hosting DIY craft tutorials, with local artists from Etsy’s seller community, on everything from table décor to eco-friendly gifts.

Shoppers can also find exclusive step-by-step DIY projects from Etsy’s creative community in Whole Foods Market’s 2013 Holiday Guide, available in stores and online at wholefoodsmarket.com/bestholidayever.

There are two really cool aspects of this partnership that really stand out to me.

1) The Gifts & Décor Ideas on the Whole Foods Market website.

2) Etsy’s holiday page, etsy.me/wholefoods, features artist profiles, products and shops curated specially for Whole Foods Market shoppers.

If you want to really dig into making some recipes at home this holiday season, check out the Whole Foods Market Recipe app for the iPhone and iPad. Not only does this app give you access to 3,000 recipes, but it allows you to search by course, cuisine, or special diet, and gives you information on specials, sales, and events.


There are many new products on the company’s store shelves that are exclusive to Whole Foods Market and cannot be found elsewhere.

Nature’s Path, one of the most dedicated advocates of GMO-labeling that we have in the industry, teamed up with Whole Foods Market’s Whole Trade program to develop a line of organic toaster pastries made with Fairtrade Certified ingredients. By sourcing organic, non-GMO evaporated cane juice from cooperatives like the Cañeros Orgánicos Asociados in Paraguay, Nature’s Path has been able to make sure the farmers get a fair price for their products and work under better conditions.

The following four flavors of Nature’s Path Fairtrade toaster pastries are only available at Whole Foods Market: Buncha Blueberries, Cherry Pomegranate, Lotta Chocolatta, and Berry Strawberry

In special partnership with Whole Foods Market, Madécasse Chocolate has launched two limited-edition bars: Winter Spice, a 63% dark chocolate bar featuring warm ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg notes, and Peppermint, a 63% dark chocolate bar that has the refreshing cool flavor of Madagascar mint and nutmeg.

What is so noteworthy about Madécasse is that it is the only company producing high quality bean-to-bar, hand-wrapped chocolate and vanilla products on the continent of Africa — a significant fact considering that before the company was founded, Africa supplied 70% of the world’s cocoa but 0% of its chocolate. By providing equipment and training – and producing the entire product locally – Madécasse is able to funnel back 100% of production costs to the people of Madagascar.

Alter-Eco has launched a brand new line of organic, fair trade, non-GMO chocolates truffles. These individually-wrapped truffles come in two flavors, Black and Velvet, and are made with organic, fair trade chocolate and coconut oil. Additionally, the products are Carbon Neutral certified.

There are two notable aspects of these truffles.

First, Alter Eco sources its organic coconut oil from the Kerala Fair Trade Alliance located on India’s tropical Malabar Coast. This farmer-owned co-op practices jaiva krishi, a natural and sustainable farming method that mimics a virgin rainforest, where many different crops grow harmoniously together, and many animal species — including wild elephants — roam safely.

Second, its new eco-friendly wrapper for the truffles is printed with non-toxic compostable ink and will decompose in yard waste and at-home compost bins.

For fish lovers, there is something special waiting for you. Whole Foods Market is currently the only retailer carrying a newly available, Responsibly FarmedSouth American fish species called Paiche. Often reserved for trend-setting restaurants, the company is making this fish available to shoppers across the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. Prices are less than sea bass, a fish with comparable flavor and texture.

Facts About Paiche:

– Paiche is a white fish with a mild, buttery flavor and moist, firm fillets.

– It has long been a popular mainstay in South America, so much so that overfishing almost caused the species to go extinct. Yet thanks to innovative, responsible farming practices, the sustainable farm-raised Paiche can once again be enjoyed.

– The fish is raised without antibiotics, pesticides or added growth hormones, and has an optimal ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. With 20 grams of protein in every 3.5-ounce serving, Paiche is a rich source of protein with no trans fats.

Lastly, with Christmas just a few weeks away, Trader’s Point Creamery will be offering to Whole Foods Market shoppers the first organic, grass-fed egg nog.

Have a great holiday season, and I am looking forward to the opening of the new store in Brooklyn on December 17th with its 20,000 square foot rooftop garden!

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