The Amazonification of Whole Foods Market has been greatly exaggerated.
That's the clear message to consumers shopping the retailer's latest format, which opened in Tampa, Fla., on July 7.
From the minute a shopper walks into the new 48,000-square-foot store at the intersection of Dale Mabry Highway and Midtown Drive in Tampa, Whole Foods Market's 40-year-old core values of nourishing people and planet are on full display — literally, in signs right above the cheese case:
"Our core values are: We sell the highest quality natural and organic food. We satisfy and delight our customers. We care about our communities and the environment. We promote team member growth and happiness. We practice win-win supplier partnerships. We create profits and prosperity."
At the front end of the new Whole Foods (which is owned by Amazon), there's traditional and self checkout but no Amazon Dash Carts or Just Walk Out cashierless technology, as found in many of the Amazon Fresh stores that Amazon has been opening across the country (13 have opened so far). In fact, there's few signs of Amazon's ownership at the Midtown Tampa Whole Foods, save for a few promotional cards indicating sale prices for Amazon Prime members. This new format is not about Amazon's alleged aspirations to dominate the grocery industry. This new format is all about showcasing the next evolution of the natural foods retailing standards that CEO John Mackey put in place when he founded Whole Foods in Austin, Texas, in 1980.
Shoppers browsing the rest of the new Whole Foods in Tampa will see other signs consistent with Whole Foods' messaging: "Our purpose is to nourish." "How animals are raised matters." "Seafood standards like nowhere else." Signs also abound directing shoppers to locally sourced options in every category from fresh seafood to nuts to cookies in the bakery.
Innovative features of the new Tampa Whole Foods store include:
A full-service seafood counter with a focus on locally sourced options.
Prepared foods department with a wide and local-focused selection of hot and cold food bars featuring salad, soups, pizza, charcuterie, fresh packed pasta, ready-to-heat meals and new gourmet salads. Four large hot and cold food bars feature international and plant-based cuisine. There's a "daal" station for Indian food lovers, and a "quinoa" station. Nearby, charcuterie, pizza and sushi stations tempt the shopper also.
A cheese department overseen by an in-store American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional who can offer expertise and recommendations for any occasion and create custom boards. Locally made cheeses such as Mozzarita mozzarella are also designed to delight shoppers.
The center store features local treats such as toffee from Pinellas Park’s Toffee to Go and chocolate from 5150 Chocolate, as well as endless plant-based and better-for-you options that are free of many artificial ingredients, which the store calls out in signage.
The Bake Shop department offers custom cakes, patisserie and special diet options. Local items include tres leches cake from Momma’s Baked Goods and cookies from Cosa Duci Italian Bakery.
An expansive Wellness and Beauty section features products in the body care, supplement and home categories that include products from local suppliers such as bulk soap from North Port (Fla.)’s Lolablue Living, Miami’s RSP Nutrition immunity and hydration shots, coconut oil from Tampa’s Conscious Coconut and candles from Sarasota’s Bia Candle Co.
Other features of the store (see photo gallery below) include: parking spots for grocery pickup, a flight information board at the front end for shoppers heading to nearby Tampa International Airport, an expanded bulk foods department, a juicing machine that makes fresh juices, a vast dining space lined with flatscreen TVs, grab and go kiosks featuring breakfast, gourmet and plant-based items, and a floral department featuring locally grown orchids.
In an announcement in May, Whole Foods reiterated the importance of access to high-quality groceries and disclosed some ways that the retailer plans to move ahead across the organization. For example, more than 40 new stores are in the pipeline, following the opening of several locations in 2020. Among those recent locations: a novel Ideal Market concept in Denver and a new online-only store in Brooklyn, New York.
From a personnel perspective, more than 10,000 jobs were added last year and the company currently has about 10,000 open positions. To keep up with growth goals and address market changes, Whole Foods also announced changes to its regional and global support teams, including areas of corporate merchandising and operations, team member services and technology. Among other adjustments, the global and regional merchandising teams will be merged into a single team and the team member services group will be realigned for greater support in key areas such as recruiting and training.
As it expands its footprint and community of employees, Whole Foods is broadening its product portfolio, too, launching 950 new local brands, 10,000 local items and 650 new exclusive brands last year. More are planned for 2021.
“As we look to the rest of 2021 and beyond, we are excited to resume services that were suspended due to the pandemic and continue serving more communities, leading the way in shaping the future of grocery retail and advancing our purpose to nourish people and the planet for many years to come,” a company statement read.
The first national certified-organic grocer, Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods has more than 500 stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The grocer is No. 26 on The PG 100 list, Progressive Grocer’s 2021 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, while Seattle-based Amazon is No. 2 on PG’s list.