It's dominating almost every conversation. What's happening with Whole Foods? Some focus on the long-term, trying to foretell what Amazon has planned. Others lament the fact that it has become all but impossible for local brands to find their way to the shelf. Existing brands and brokers are freaked out about the edict on merchandising and the plan to bring that "in-house". Of course, there is the ever-moving review schedule and the whole global versus regional submission question.
My advice? Stop worrying about it! You are wasting precious time and focus. Yes, Whole Foods is an important outlet. They offer a path to reach important consumers, velocity is usually decent, and it comes with some panache that adds to brand credibility. I get all of that. But, that does not justify the wasted time asking the "what if" and "how come" questions.
It's important to have some perspective. Whole Foods has less than 500 outlets. There are over 38,000 grocery stores in the U.S. Additionally, if you consider the potential to sell your brand in other channels such as drug and convenience or alternative channels such as corporate feeders, airports, and college bookstores, you will quickly recognize that Whole Foods represents an infinitesimally small percentage of the total opportunity.
I am going to break it to you gently, it is time to move on, to let go. I am not suggesting you forgo your current business at Whole Foods or remove them from your target list. No, what I am suggesting is that you see it for what it is, a very small piece of a very large pie.
Successful brands are not the ones that repetitively run headlong into a brick wall with the hopes of eventually smashing through. Instead, the brands that win are those that see the obstacle and find the quickest and most effective way around, over, or under that wall.
What are your plans for conventional grocery? How about building a regional strategy around strong independents? You could develop a plan to hit alternative channels such as Barnes & Noble college bookstores, or Hudson News airport locations. Either of those represents significantly more doors than Whole Foods. What about convenience and drug stores who are beginning to look for better-for-you options, do your products fit there? What about e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Jet, and Thrive?
You get the point. There is nothing you can do to answer or solve all the questions that surround the future of Whole Foods. The only action you can and should take is to move forward. It's not only your competition that is doing that, it's your customers. Chains are trying to figure out how to fill the current void in the market. Kroger, Sprouts, Publix, and others are trying to grow their local programs. Help them do that with your products.
While the topic of Whole Foods is fodder for some great conversation, contemplation, and even bold predictions, it does little to help you grow your business. In fact, I could argue that it hinders your ability to grow because it keeps your focus too narrow.
Stop worrying about Whole Foods and instead use that mental energy to plan and execute a strategy that will get you on more shelves and into more carts.