retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Time has a story about how Whole Foods, trying to regain momentum in a marketplace for organics that is fast becoming more competitive, has irritated some of its organic farmers who are unhappy about "a new rating system the famously green grocer is instituting in its stores .. because in some instances it may give non-organic produce a higher rating than fruits and vegetables grown organically."

The story says that in evaluating and rating produce, Whole Foods is using a system called "Responsibly Grown" that "takes into account things such as water use and conservation efforts, as well as pesticides."

The magazine goes on: "It’s rare for organic farmers to speak out against Whole Foods, which has been one of organic farming’s biggest backers. Company officials say 60% of the food that is sold in the company’s stores is organic." But with increased competition, "Whole Foods appears to be using the new rating system to differentiate itself from competitors. Farmers say it will be expensive to make the changes needed to win the highest grade in the new Whole Foods rating system, and they accuse the company of offloading the costs of its new marketing campaign on them."
KC's View:
I suppose it is a hard thing for organic farmers to hear, that the thing they do for a living to differentiate themselves and their customers isn;t always the most important thing.

But I also have to wonder if in some ways stories like this one - and this has gotten a lot of play in papers around the country - help or hurt Whole Foods' broader narrative, especially at a time when it is adding new chapters with its planned 365 format that will allegedly be smaller, less expensive, higher tech and more appealing to millennials.