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Sozzi: Is Whole Foods Secretly Reinventing Itself for 2020?

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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Whole Foods  is not really a supermarket. If you want that dreadful experience, head to the heavily promoted aisles of Walmart  and Target . Since its creation by now co-CEO John Mackey, Whole Foods stores have represented a place to start a discussion on a healthy way of living either through studying the ingredients in unheard of items or pulling up a chair to eat some figure-friendly food in the cafe. Now the discussions on the company's social mission and surprising in-store elements are spilling over onto Twitter  and Facebook , allowing Whole Foods to create a better customer shopping experience (as well as helping to collect big data for future uses, as I learned from a fun chat with Whole Foods' Director of Social Media & Digital Marketing Natanya Anderson here).

However, it would appear that Whole Foods is reinventing itself for the year 2020 and beyond, unbeknownst to many except the company's executives and those hired to run the new stores. Remember, being a leader in anything requires constant reinvention so that competitors never truly catch onto your secrets for success.

Here's what's going on at Whole Foods...

Who Needs Deliveries of Fresh Produce Via Smokey Trucks?

A Whole Foods in Brooklyn recently opened a 20,000 square foot garden on top of its store. With the capacity to generate 200 tons of produce, or the equivalent of a 9 acre farm per year, this rooftop garden will initially grow basil, bok choy, tomatoes, and leafy greens (hello, hot-selling kale!) to 10 surrounding Whole Foods locations. No soil is being used, hence no pesticides.

The move raises this basic question: why doesn't Walmart have gardens on top of its more than 100,000 square foot stores so as to serve low income areas with healthier options instead of filling their carts with junk from a Campbell's Soup  and Hershey ?


Within the next six weeks, Whole Foods' first in-house brewery will open in Houston, Texas. The brewmaster, who is currently in the final rounds of being selected, will be tasked with developing his/her own recipes. Talk about a very high margin product, homemade craft beer, potentially being added to numerous Whole Foods stores (and serving to propel sales of food in the evening...take that Starbucks ). In fact, the future Boston Beer  or Molson Coors  may have been incubated at Whole Foods.

The New School Drive-Thru

Many new Whole Foods locations are being attached to new condo and co-op communities. Others are city focused. To address those that may not have a desire, or need, to own a car, Whole Foods is installing walk-up food service windows. The passerby on the run will notice this faster option relative to heading into the store by Whole Foods doing something else that is new...establishing outside seating in the front of the store to eat and congregate.