Whole Foods was essentially our first major competitor when in 1990, Fresh Fields (soon to be purchased by WF) opened a mile up the street from our tiny retail outlet in Rockville.
People frequently ask me how we’ve been able to compete against WF- or what I think of them in general. Maybe to their surprise, I usually offer praise.
Since I began this business back in 1987, I estimate that the organic food retail industry in the DC/Baltimore region has grown about seventy-fold (7000%). I have no doubt that over the decades, WF has helped to expand this industry.
WF takes aim at the masses of consumers who shop at conventionals such as Safeway and Giant. To be most effective, WF spends lots of money on marketing and shiny fancy stores, which exposes many mainstream consumers to organic foods.
WF has done a lot to put organic foods on the map – and of the large grocery chains, they have been the most socially responsible (however, I will discuss some recent concerns I have in this regard later on this blog).
As consumers move from conventional grocers to WF, WF acts as a stepping stone to MOM’s. After a process that I estimate takes a few years, some consumers find MOM’s as they become more dedicated to organics and the environment and yearn for more organic products, only certified organic produce, higher ingredient standards, and cheaper prices (due to our low frills model and the word-of-mouth of our most loyal customers).
So, while we at MOM’s compete fiercely with WF, I see the competition between us more like the Sam the Sheepdog and Ralph the Coyote characters of Looney Tunes cartoons who compete fiercely during the day- and then punch the clock at the end of the day and say “Have a good evening- see you tomorrow”…