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How Whole Foods Market Remains an Organic Trailblazer

Grocer marks 20 years since 1st organic retail certification
Lynn Petrak, Progressive Grocer
Whole Foods Organic salad bar
Whole Foods Market, the first and only retailer with organic retail certification, highlights and even keeps separate many organic offerings.

Whole Foods Market has reached a milestone. The Amazon-owned natural grocer is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its first organic retail certification.

While Whole Foods was out early in support of organic agriculture and production, it remains the only national retailer to hold such certification. Today, the company estimates that it offers more than 37,000 organic items across its stores and requires certification for organic label claims on all of the products it sells.

[Read more: “Whole Foods Market Reveals Its 10 Food ‘Brands to Watch”]

“Whole Foods Market is proud to celebrate 20 years as the only certified organic national grocer in the industry and continue our work to help grow and support the organic community. Our team members work hard to ensure the organic integrity of our products all the way from the farm to customer selection from our shelves,” said CEO Jason Buechel, who will be a keynote speaker at Progressive Grocer’s upcoming GroceryImpact event in Orlando, Fla.

The retailer’s commitment to organic is exemplified in other practices and programs. Whole Foods is a longtime supporter of the Organic Trade Association and the Organic Farming and Research Foundation (OFRF) and played an active role in helping develop the USDA National Organic Program. The retailer recently joined OFRF and others to endorse Congressional legislation including the Strengthening Organic Agriculture Research Act (SOAR) in the U.S. House and the Organic Science and Research Investment Act (OSRI) in the Senate.

“We have a deep understanding of the environmental benefits sustainable farming methods like organic can bring and continue to work with our community to increase access to the organic market,” added Karen Christensen, SVP, merchandising for perishables and quality standards.

Beyond supporting organic agricultural practices and sourcing organic items, Whole Foods has a farm-to-shelf approach to its commitment. In stores, associates take time to stock produce so organic and conventional produce items do not touch and also thoroughly clean equipment used to cut meat and cheese before handling organic orders. Moreover, every step in the process is documented.

As the business continues to add more organic offerings, it also is adding more locations. A new Whole Foods Market is slated to open on Oct. 4 in Springfield, Va., replacing a previous location in the community that served customers for 25 years. The new site is nearly double the size of the original store.  

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods has more than 500 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Seattle-based Amazon, which is No. 2 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of top food and consumables retailers in North America. Both Whole Foods and Amazon were named among PGRetailers of the Century.

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