Say “Whole Foods” among American consumers and the first images that come to mind are natural, organic and healthy food products that have been carefully chosen for their positive impact on both the producers and the consumers. The Austin, Texas-based American supermarket chain, after all, specializes in organic food that health-conscious consumers want in their pantries, refrigerators and tables.
As of September 2015, Whole Foods employs over 91,000 people in its 431 supermarkets across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. While its headquarters are in Austin, Texas, its main produce procurement and purchasing facilities are in Watsonville, California.
Whole Foods has also built up a reputation as one of the best companies to work for. Under the leadership of its various CEOs and Chairmen of the Board, it is also one of the largest publicly-traded companies and the largest retailers (30th in 2014 based on revenues) in the United States as well as being a Fortune 500 company. As of 2015, its current crop of leaders includes co-CEOs John Mackey (founder) and Water Robb as well as John Elstrott as chairman.
Like all start-ups during its early years, founders John Mackey and Renee Lawson had their fair shares of troubles since they first founded SaferWay, the precursor to While Foods, in 1978. In 1980, Whole Foods was created with the merging of SaferWay with Clarksville Natural Grocery; the first store with a total area of 12,500 square feet and a staff of 19 employees was considered quite large in the health food store industry then.
While its inventory and equipment were destroyed in 1981 due to widespread flooding, Whole Foods recovered and expanded its operations outside of Austin by 1984; the expansions were made by opening new stores and acquiring existing health food stores. The success of its operations lies partly in its strict adherence to only selling products that meet its self-created, self-imposed quality standards for natural and organic products.