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Whole Foods, which opened in 1978 as a single organic grocery store, has expanded to 200 stores and over $9 billion in yearly sales. NewsHour economics correspondent Paul Solman reports on the company's success, the growing competition and the organic food industry.
JOHN MACKEY, CEO, Whole Foods:
We seduce the customer with produce…
PAUL SOLMAN, NewsHour Economics Correspondent:
Fifty-three-year-old college dropout John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market.
Well, people buy food first with their eyes. I mean, we're visual, tactile people.
What began as a single, organic grocery in Austin, Texas, in 1978 is now a national chain, with nearly 200 stores, $9 billion a year in sales. Vegetable seduction is how the Whole Foods experience begins.
Beauty is a very important part of pleasure and how we interpret a food experience will be. So, yes, beauty is very important. Here we've got California artichokes, Mexican red peppers…
Handsome, fresh, natural, often organic food has made the chain highly profitable, helped spawn a $15 billion industry. Yet Whole Foods is so socially responsible, it won't sell live lobsters unless they're treated humanely. This one's from a competitor.
Based on our research, lobsters have pain receptors and they're capable of pain.
In short, Whole Foods sees itself as an alternative model. Its stock, publicly traded; its loyalty to its stakeholders, customers, community and employees, instead of just the shareholders who invest.
First, the customers. Why shop here?
WHOLE FOODS SHOPPER:
Because it has a lot of organic products. And, obviously, I'm pregnant.
So you are.
It has a large selection of organic foods and, like, meat and dairy that are not treated with antibiotics or hormones. And I want to try to get pure food for my baby.
Then there's the community outside these walls, to which Whole Foods donates fully 5 percent of its profits. As for the employees, around here, they're team members.
WHOLE FOODS EMPLOYEE:
So staffing is good for this evening…
Average pay of more than $15 an hour, full health benefits, and a say in running things. New flavors at the gelato stand, for example.
Pineapple and basil?
How do you come up with these unique kind of recipes?
It seems to work. Though Whole Foods is America's second-largest non-union retailer, it ranks fifth among Fortune magazine's best 100 firms to work for.
Every one of our produce items is organized by type of growing method.
Whole Foods executives have their salaries capped at 19 times the worker average. The CEO's pay?
I just cut my pay to one dollar a year.
And why exactly?
That's kind of hard to explain in a way that is able to — it's the appropriate thing for me to do at this time in my life. I have enough money. I have enough money.
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