Some Whole Foods employees are instigating a union drive, according to a letter leaked to the press Thursday. Citing layoffs and falling morale since the company’s 2017 acquisition by Amazon, the workers plan to push for higher wages and better benefits.
Mergers, tech companies, and private equity ownership are reshaping the grocery retail sector, as a continued wave of consolidation threatens smaller chains and their employees.
Since its acquisition by Amazon in August, Whole Foods has implemented some changes that are causing its suppliers to worry. Among them are centralized buying, higher charges for placement in certain sections of the store, and a new inventory system.
Amazon announced last week that it would begin two-hour delivery of Whole Foods products for Prime members in select markets. The announcement came just before the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon is preparing to introduce an in-house delivery service, which would compete with FedEx and UPS.
Despite rumors of cheaper groceries, prices at Whole Foods have only decreased by 1.2 percent overall after Amazon bought the company for $13.7 billion five weeks ago, says a study by the research firm Gordon Haskett.
The market for plant-based foods grew an average of 8.1 percent last year, compared to a decline of 0.2 percent for all other foods, according to data compiled by the retail sales research group, Nielsen. According to the report, which was funded by the The Good Food Institute and Plant Based Foods Association, the market for plant-based meats specifically rose 6 percent from a year ago, while plant-based dairy alternatives saw 20 percent growth. Nielsen found a 5-percent decrease in cow-milk sales, but a 3.1-percent increase in sales of plant-based milk.
Amazon is lowering prices on a few items at its newly acquired Whole Food’s stores, but that doesn’t mean the grocery retailer will become the best bargain in town quite yet or that other companies will feel pushed to lower their prices too. “Shoppers shouldn’t expect a price war to break out,” …
Amazon can proceed with its purchase of Whole Foods after getting the green light from the Federal Trade Commission, which determined that the deal will not reduce competition in the grocery sector. The FTC announced its decision hours after Whole Foods’ stockholders approved the $13.7 billion transaction, said CNBC.
People who shop at Whole Foods expect to get higher-quality food in exchange for paying significantly higher prices. But when it comes to poultry and meat, at least, consolidation in the industry and broadly rising standards mean the same products that Whole Foods sells are increasingly available at conventional supermarket chains for a lot less money, reports Bloomberg.
When Amazon announced its deal to buy Whole Foods, the instant analysis was that groceries would be the next big thing in online shopping. If so, there is a lot of room for growth since a sliver of Americans – 9 percent, according to Gallup – say they order groceries by Internet at least once a month. The number of regular shoppers is smaller still: 4 percent of adults order groceries online once a week or more often. By comparison, 83 percent said someone in the family goes to the store at least once a week, according to a Gallup survey conducted by phone in early July.
After buying Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, Amazon will meet this week with organic ranchers to discuss how the company might distribute their meat, says Reuters. One of the ranches, White Oak Pastures from Blufton, Georgia, sells $2 million annually online of frozen beef, duck and lamb, but is hopeful that teaming up with Amazon will improve its reach.
Whole Foods’ decision to centralize buying for its U.S. stores will likely make it much harder for smaller producers of organic and natural foods to get to market. The move could thus further solidify the control of the corporate food giants currently dominating the organic and natural foods sector.
One of the biggest meatpackers in the world, Tyson Foods, "appears to be the first big meat company to invest in a business that, among other things, aims to reduce consumption of chicken, beef and pork by replacing it with plant proteins, says the New York Times. Tyson purchased a 5-percent share of Beyond Meat, based in California.
It could be capsulized as "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Steak." At the meat counter and online, retailers "are taking the local food craze to new heights," says the Wall Street Journal, by selling cuts of meat that can be traced to an individual animal on a specific farm. It's called "single origin" meat.
Whole Foods and Starbucks are opening locations in Chicago’s crime-ridden Englewood neighborhood as part of a $20-million project to bring better services and products to the area. “The typically upscale Whole Foods will occupy an 18,000-square-foot store in the newly constructed Englewood Square shopping complex during a notably violent year in the neighborhood, one of the city’s poorest — it served as the setting for Spike Lee’s controversial “Chiraq” movie, and median household income is under $20,000, according to Census data,” says MarketWatch.
Purple Carrot, a vegan meal-kit company based in Boston, now sells its boxes of pre-measured ingredients in local Whole Foods stores, says the Boston Globe — a twist from the meal-kit model of shipping food and recipes to a subscriber's home. "After realizing they're literally getting their lunch stolen by these startups, they [grocers] have begun to look for ways to tap into the public's interest in the trend," the newspaper says.
Some farmers are seeing a drop in farmers' market sales, as customers steer toward prepared foods and away from fresh vegetables and fruit, says The Washington Post. Many customers coming to markets today are younger and don’t cook much. They consider the market more of an event than a source for the week’s groceries.
“Ugly” fruits and vegetables might actually be more nutritious than blemish-free produce, says NPR. Scabs and scars on the skin are a sign that the plant fought off invaders, whether pests or fungus.