I fell in love with ‘Whole Foods Market’ during our holiday in Hawaii. We first learned about this ingenious grocery store chain from our friends that we stayed with. As we were getting ready to go to Kailua beach on our second morning there, our friends told us not to miss a visit to ‘Whole Foods’ in the centre of the town. Thank you for the recommendation! It became one of our favourite hang-outs – after the breathtakingly beautiful beaches, of course. Here is, in a nutshell, what the company is all about, from the company website.
Who are we? Well, we seek out the finest natural and organic foods available, maintain the strictest quality standards in the industry, and have an unshakeable commitment to sustainable agriculture. Add to that the excitement and fun we bring to shopping for groceries, and you start to get a sense of what we’re all about. Oh yeah, we’re a mission-driven company too.
Started in Austin, Texas, in 1980, this flagship of fresh, pure, organic, ecologically and ethically sound, and as far as possible local food and products has since spread, by acquisitions and mergers, all over the US, and also to Canada and the London area in the UK, too. The company ethos is being “buying agents” for shoppers, to ensure that they can shop with a peace of mind that strict standards, and the store’s own “Responsibly grown ratings”, are always followed. There are several stories about farmer partners and suppliers on the company website, all testifying to the care and attention paid not only to the quality of the produce but also to sustainability, conserving the environment and animal welfare, for example. I really can’t praise this store enough! Coming from winter in Finland, when fresh produce is always imported from thousands of miles away, and where the grocery selection, on the whole, is quite limited, this place was paradise. Everything was beautifully displayed, the selection was out of this world, and so much to choose from, I didn’t know where to start! In addition to all the mouthwatering food, there were also organically produced soaps and other cosmetics, as well as some lovely clothes. (Unfortunately, I didn’t dare to take photos inside the store. From our 1-year stay in the US in the 1990s, we remembered having been forbidden to take pictures inside stores so often that I didn’t even sneakily try!) Finally, the real icing on the cake, to make this shopping experience so convenient and “civilised”, if you like, was their prepared foods section. In fact, ‘Whole Foods Markets’ are also restaurants. You can select your food from their salad bar (all fresh and super tasty), or warm dishes section (lots of vegetarian dishes, too, and nice, surprisingly exotic ones), and to finish with a lovely selection of fruit and desserts, too. You either stack your choice on a plate or in a cardboard box, which are then weighed at the check out, to get the price. How delightfully easy and simple! There was also a bar, with a nice selection of wines and draught beers (hubby was very pleased!). And best of all, you can take all the food and drinks outside, and enjoy it on the terrace straight away! The terrace in Kailua was great, with people of all ages mixing together quite happily – families with small children and pets, big groups of women, probably spending their lunch hour from work together, with glasses of wine and chirpy chat and laughter, couples for coffee and cakes, young people immersed in their smartphone worlds, and then tourists like us. We are missing so much in our country of strict regulations and closed and limited areas for different age groups and functions!
The only disadvantage, if you can call it that, were of course their high prices. But hey, it’s a choice, and if I can afford it, I gladly pay extra to enjoy the great tastes and healthy alternatives while being environmentally-friendly at the same time. Sadly, the consumer markets for anything here in Finland are very small, so I can’t see stores like this catching on here any time soon, especially in the present gloomy economic climate. Still, hopefully one day a Finn will come up with a similar business concept. Can’t wait! In the meantime, I will have to just be happy with our memories from Hawaii, and keep checking out the recipes of the ‘Whole Foods Market’ website.