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In the battle of grocery chains, it appears that it is the newest generation of shoppers that is declaring the victor. Drawn by the promise of healthy and organic options, as well as its socially responsible brand image, Millennials are flocking to Whole Foods. In turn, Whole Foods continues to enjoy increases in its market share and revenues.

The trend might seem a little curious though. Young Millennials earn relatively less than older age cohorts, and Whole Foods is known for its relatively high price points. But in this case, it appears that the overall value of Whole Foods’ offerings are what bring young shoppers through its doors. In addition to organic and locally sourced foods, the self-proclaimed “America’s healthiest grocery store” promises high quality options, as well as convenient and delicious meal options.

The quality component also stretches to Whole Foods’ corporate philosophy, which tends to be socially responsible and straightforward. Thus young consumers who are skeptical of traditional marketing communication from food producers find credible information posted at Whole Foods.

Furthermore, Whole Foods made a concerted effort in the early days of the modern economic recession to lower prices on some popular items. In this sense, it appeared sensitive to the concerns of young shoppers. By reinforcing its responsible image and making certain items more affordable, the grocer likely increased its share among the Millennials even further.

Of course, a national chain cannot survive off the purchases of a single generation. Whole Foods also appeals effectively to aging Baby Boomers, who are seeking ways to “stay young and healthy and vital and extend their longevity,” according to John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods. Although it appears to be lagging among Generation X consumers, both the Boomers and the Millennial generations are larger than the cohort that separates them.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you shop at Whole Foods? Why or why not?
  2. What is Whole Foods’ value proposition?

Source: Tom Ryan, “Whole Foods Hits It Off with Millennials,” Retail Wire, July 30, 2012