Whole Foods Market was founded in Austin, Texas in 1980 by John Mackey and Renee Lawson Hardy, owners of Safer Way Natural Foods and Craig Weller and Mark Skiles owners of Clarksville Natural Grocery. During the same year, Texas Health Distributors was established as the wholesale supplier to the company and other natural food stores and restaurants.
Much of the growth of Whole Foods Market has been accomplished through mergers and acquisitions. Whole Foods Market acquired Bluebonnet Natural Foods Grocery in Dallas, Texas in 1986. Whole Foods Market purchased the Whole Food Company in 1988 and started expanding into other states including California. It opened a store in Palo Alto in 1989.
The company next acquired Wellspring Grocery based in Chapel Hill and Durham, North Carolina in 1991. In the same year, the company launched the Whole Foods Premium Label product line. Whole Foods Market went public in 1992 and its stock was listed on the NASDAQ. Later that year, the company acquired a majority interest in Sourdough, a European bakery.
The company then expanded to the Midwest with the opening of a Lincoln Park store in Chicago, Illinois in 1993. Soon after, Whole Foods acquired Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Foods Markets located in Los Angeles, California. Two years later, the company acquired Bread of Life (in the San Francisco Bay area), Unicorn Village (in South Florida) and Oak Street Market (in Evanston, Illinois).
In 1996, the company purchased Pigeon Cove Trading Company and Fresh Fields Markets located on the East Coast and in the Midwest. Whole Foods continued with its acquisition strategy in 1997 with the takeover of the Bread of Life chain in Florida; the nutraceutical company Amrion;The Granary Market; Allegro Coffee Company; and The Merchant of Vino stores. In the same year, Whole Foods Market launched the 365 Every Day Value brand (its value private label brand). In the following year, the company launched the Whole Kids product line.
The company launched WholeFoods.com, its e-commerce web site in 1999, and later acquired Nature’s Heartland of Boston. In 2000, the company acquired the Food 4 Thought Natural Food Market and Deli.The new company information website, wholefoodsmarket.com was also launched in the same year.
The company returned to its core business when it sold its interest in NatureSmart (formerly Amrion) to NBTY in 2001. Subsequently, it acquired Harry’s Farmers Market stores in Atlanta, Georgia.
Whole Foods Market expanded outside the US with the opening of its first international store in Toronto, Canada in 2002.The company was added to the NASDAQ-100 Index later that same year.
It also introduced the 365 Organic Everyday Value brand in the same year.The company introduced its Authentic Food Artisan line of products in 2003. It started building its 80,000 square foot store in Austin, Texas. Later that year, the company acquired Seattle’s Select Fish and opened a seafood processing facility in Atlanta. In the same year, the company became America’s first national certified organic grocer.
Whole Foods expanded into the UK with the acquisition of Fresh & Wild in 2004. Back in the US, the company opened the largest grocery store in Manhattan at Columbus Circle in the same year. In August 2005, the company announced its plans to build a 75,000 square foot flagship store in Central London on Kensington High Street. This store is expected to open early 2007.
During January 2006, Whole Foods made purchase of renewable energy credits from wind farms to offset 100% of the electricity used in all of its stores, facilities, bake houses, distribution centers, regional offices and national headquarters in the US and Canada.This was the largest wind energy credit purchase in the history of the United States and Canada and made Whole Foods Market the only Fortune 500 Company purchasing wind energy credits to offset 100% of its electricity use.
Also during the same month the company opened up a new store in Alexandria. The store had 45,000 square feet of retail space and offer variety of products including meats, produce, cheese and fresh foods, a soup station, an olive bar, a seafood soup station, a sushi bar, a fresh lobster tank, dry aged beef, freshly made sausage, beer and wine. In addition, there was the Duke Street Bistro (a chef station), West End Seafood Market and seating in the cafe for 60 people.
In April 2006, the company opened its first store in Greenville, South Carolina.The store had a retail space of 47,000 square feet. During August 2006, Whole Foods opened a new store in Redmond, California. The 55,864 square-foot store would cater to the needs of the Redmond community by offering range of fresh produce, chef prepared foods, baked goods, natural meats and seafood.
Whole Foods opened its first store in Tigard, Oregon in November 2006.The 52,000 square-foot stores was tailored to serve the needs of the Tigard, Tualatin and Lake Oswego communities by offering the highest quality and best-tasting chef-prepared foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, baked goods, natural meats and seafood. In the next month the company was awarded Green Power Partner of the Year by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for Whole Foods contribution towards the environment.
In January 2007, Fortune magazine ranked Whole Foods Market number 5 on its 2007 list of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’. The company made in to the list for the tenth consecutive year and is one of only 18 companies to be named every year since the list’s inception.
During the February 2007, the company opened its First Store in Maine, US. The 48,000 square feet store would offer many unique features not found at an average supermarket, including a coffee bar, an all-natural taffy-pulling machine, a sit-down sushi bar, and a trattoria with an oven featuring hot Italian entrees and a variety of items grilled to order. Also in the same month, Whole Foods and Wild Oats signed a definitive merger agreement under which Whole Foods Market would acquire Wild Oats Markets’ outstanding common stock in a cash tender offer of $18.5 per share, or approximately $565 million based on fully diluted shares.
Whole Foods Market would also assume Wild Oats Markets’ existing net debt totaling approximately $106 million as reported on September 30, 2006.
The company opened its fourth New York City store in March 2007. The new 71,000- square-foot, two-story store would house three eateries; Fromageries featuring 80 exclusive aged cheeses; homemade pies baked fresh throughout the day: as well as foods from a variety of the top-tier local artisans and growers.
In May 2007, Whole Foods launched its weekly Online Cooking Show named Secret Ingredient for home cooks seeking useful tips and exciting yet simple recipe ideas. In June 2007, the company opened its flagship 80,000 square foot store in Central London, UK. This store was company’s first Whole Foods Market branded store outside North America.
The company acquired Wild Oats, a natural and organic foods retailer in North America in August 2007.The following month, the company sold all 27 Henry’s Farmers Market and eight Sun Harvest store locations and a related distribution center in California to a subsidiary of Smart & Final, a Los Angeles-based food retailer.
In October 2007, the company was awarded the Green Power Partner of the Year award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The company opened a new store in Houston in December 2007.
In January 2008, Fortune magazine ranked the company on number 16 in its 2008 list of ‘100 best companies to work for’. In the same month, Whole Foods opened its new store in Napa, California. The new store includes a wine bar.
In February 2008, Whole Foods developed a new Premium Body Care standard and labeling seal of approval. In the same month, Whole Foods opened a new store in Scottdale, the US. This store spreads across 50,000 square foot area with a sit-down wine bar, dine-in eateries with carry-out available, neighborhood-butcher style meat experts, a natural and organic body-care department, eco-chic clothing for men, women and baby and a prominent array of local products. During the same period, Whole Foods announced that it has developed a new Premium Body Care standard and labeling seal of approval.