University of Toronto, Canada
Whole Foods Market (WFM) is a large, US-based corporate grocery store chain that specializes in natural and organic foods and personal care products. The grocery chain offers consumers a place to purchase delicious foods that make them feel good, both about their own health and their impact on the environment. WFM's considerable market success speaks to the rise of natural, quality foods as a high-status arena of consumption, as well as the prominent (but contested) linkage between progressive social change and commodity consumption.
WFM opened its first store in Austin, Texas in 1980. It has since expanded considerably to more than 310 locations. Most of its locations are in the United States, but the chain has also opened stores in Canada and the United Kingdom. Much of WFM's growth has occurred by absorbing its natural-food store competitors (e.g., Fresh & Wild, Wild Oats Market). While WFM specializes in organic foods and is a certified organic grocer, part of the chain's consumer appeal is that they also carry a range of noncertified organic products and consumer staples produced by corporate food giants like Kraft, General Mills, and ConAgra. WFM has created its own standards for what is considered “natural” enough to carry in its stores. It maintains a list of banned food products and food chemicals (e.g., aspartame, artificial flavors and colors, sucralose, foie gras, live ...