Food News

What Will Whole Foods' New Store for Millennials Look Like?

Whole Foods is a series of contradictions. Back when things all got started at the Austin-based grocery chain, the expansive stores were a celebration of organics. Now when I shop for broccoli, I can choose the organic version for $2.99, but I have to walk past the conventional version that would save me a dollar. Whole Foods embraces paper bags over plastic because they're ostensibly better for the environment, but then they use such cheap bags that they have to double up for anything heavier than a box of un-bleached, all-natural facial tissue. I hate Whole Foods, and yet I shop there. Contradictions, everywhere.

Late last week, the company announced another seemingly contradictory initiative. Whole Foods is planning on streamlining shelves and bringing down the costs of its products in an effort to create a new line of stores that will target millennial shoppers.

For now Whole Foods execs are being pretty hush-hush about the new direction: They leaked the idea on a conference call to placate investors that had just been disappointed with a second quarter of low profits. But they did leave a few clues about the yet-to-be-named concept.

In addition to the lower price points and a curated selection, they mentioned the use of technology. They also said the new store will be unlike anything that currently exists in the marketplace. This most likely means that if you don't like the turnip that's currently in your basket, all you have to do is swipe to the right and you'll be presented a new, slightly more sarcastic turnip that took a selfie under slightly more agreeable lighting. And how about discounts if you Instagram your cart before you check out -- ten percent extra if you use the Walden filter?

It's hard to miss a Pinterest angle here, too. What if instead of carts, you just used pins to tag the groceries you want to purchase. When you're finished, hit the check out button and an employee will package up your selections while you drink a glass of cheap red wine at the bar.

Speaking of booze, I'm willing to bet a cartful of organic wheat grass that this new concept will have a bar, and considering how successful the bars have been at regular Whole Foods stores, it may even become an anchor. Expect more prepared foods, too, and maybe even something that looks more like a traditional restaurant.

Here's how I see a typical shopping experience at this new, nameless Whole Foods endeavor. A young shopper enters the store in need of milk, cereal and yogurt for lunch at their cubicle for the rest of the week. Smells of freshly baked lasagna abound, and our millennial, harboring both hunger and a distaste for dirty dishes, decides to eat a meal at the bar.

While at the bar, our young millennial meets other young millennials, and while discussing Netflix binging, copious amounts of alcohol are consumed. Hours later, the millennial in question stumbles up from their stool, picking up a pint of ice cream and a bag of potato chips on the way out the door. The next morning, the millennial is hungover and somehow spent more than $100 without buying any of the items they originally set out for. There are potato chip crumbs strewn about, but the ice cream is missing.

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Scott Reitz
Contact: Scott Reitz