On Monday, Whole Foods’ executive vice president of growth and business development, Jim Sud, said his company’s new set of lower-priced 365 stores would hopefully provide better food options to lower-income residents living in much-discussed “food deserts”—though the details on when and where are still as vague as ever.
Back in July, Whole Foods finally revealed the first five cities slated to get one of these highly hyped 365 stores. The idea that these cheaper 365 stores would be coming to extremely affluent neighborhoods, like Santa Monica, CA, and Bellevue, WA, left many wondering what the point of opening less expensive stores even was—outside of boosting Whole Foods' bottom line.
Perhaps in an attempt to quell those concerns, Sud specifically spoke to that point at the recent ICSC Florida Conference. “There’s a perception that Whole Foods only caters to wealthy clientele, but we see customers who are very high end to those who come in and spend what looks to be their last dime,” the Orlando Business Journal quoted him as saying. “Food deserts—where there’s not a supermarket within two miles—obesity rates [are higher]. We want to be able to provide those residents access to fresh, healthy foods.”
But the question remains: When? The Orlando Business Journal states that Whole Foods is planning on “doubling” the number of 365 stores in 2017. By my calculations, that’s a total of ten stores in two years, half of which don’t appear to be arriving near any sort of “food desert.”
As I’ve said in the past, Whole Foods can open stores wherever they like. They’re running a business, not a charity. But all the talk of helping out lower-income areas is starting to feel a little hollow. Talk is cheap. Probably even cheaper than the prices will be at 365.
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