Whole Foods Market was once the go-to place for organic, natural and specialty foods. However, other retailers are increasingly seeing the merit of expanding their organic and natural food options, which has slowly eaten away at Whole Foods' market share. Back in June, The Food Institute reported that Costco and Kroger may surpass Whole Foods' organic sales, while other chains like Target and Walmart are also looking to enter the race.
Along with its lower-priced 365 by Whole Foods Market store aimed at Millennials, the company has been trying to invest in projects that will improve its image and services. It recently made a minority investment in Mendocino Farms, a Los Angeles-baed sandwich chain started in 2003 that is known for its use of ingredients such as humanely-raised, antibiotic-free pork. Its dishes are usually reinventions of popular classics or regional items, like its meatloaf sandwich made with Wagyu beef and its Vietnamese banh mi made with Kurobuta pork belly.
The 11-unit chain plans to use the investment to increase its presence in California, hoping for 17 locations by the end of 2016. The deal also includes adding Mendocino Farms restaurants to some Whole Foods locations within the state. Two stores are currently slated to have the restaurant, the first of which will be in Orange County, while the second will most likely be in either Los Angeles or the Bay Area. Whole Foods is also expected to help Mendocino find sustainable suppliers as it spends the next two years expanding.
Whole Foods Market also began a partnership with business enterprise software company Infor to create a cloud-based platform for the chain to help with its merchandising and supply chain. The new software system represents an effort toward accountability, traceability, and responsibility, with the potential to eventually capture hundreds of attributes on every product, from unit measure and weight to the metrics used in the company's responsibly grown program. The new software could provide more information for customers, with even more precision, such as the exact time their vegetables were harvested. It will also help Whole Foods and its suppliers keep track of what products are selling and follow item trends.
These new additions may not make much of a difference to the company's bottom line initially, but we will have to wait and see what it will do for Whole Foods' long-term business.