According to Whole Foods, the goal of their organization is “to balance the needs and desires of our customers, team members, shareholders, suppliers, communities and the environment while creating value for all. By growing the collective pie, we create larger slices for all of our stakeholders. Our core values reflect this sense of collective fate and are the soul of our company.”
However, Paleo Dieters who primarily shop at Whole Foods are increasingly expressing frustrations with the retailer regarding the lack of appropriate Paleo Product options according to recent polls in the world’s largest Paleo Movement group, where Paleo community buying habits can be learned. It appears that the burgeoning Paleo Movement has created some issues for Whole Foods— an organization whose beginnings were deeply rooted in Vegan values— perhaps due to a fear of alienating their large vegan customer base. It is perhaps because of this that Whole Foods is struggling to balance the needs and desires of their growing Paleo Customer base.
Paleo Continues to Trend
Interest in the Paleo Diet has risen dramatically in recent years— it was the most-searched diet worldwide in 2013 and 2014 according to year-end Google reportings— and growth in paleo-product sales has followed suit with no signs of slowing down.
In fact, Paleo Products had a sales growth of 57.3% in natural and specialty retail in 2014, with a projected reach of 58.1% in sales growth this year. In addition, the U.S. is “becoming a nation of food tribalists with cultures built around close-knit viral communities based on personal values and behaviors” according to Eric Pierce, Director of strategy and insights at New Hope Natural Media, the host of Natural Products Expo West. In fact, according to Nutrition Business Journal, Paleo Product sales forecasted to reach $300 million by 2018.
Because this growth is evident, it seems likely that Whole Foods will have to continue to make changes to their current product offerings, product sections, and focus to meet the growing demands of the Paleo consumer base. The expansion of the meat department over recent years speaks volumes to the pressure exerted by the Paleo Community, causing Whole Foods to abandon previous strategic plans to phase out the meat departments completely.
The Paleo Vegan Solution to Whole Foods’ Conundrum
Luckily for Whole Foods, a significant overlap in the foods eaten by followers of the Paleo Diet and Vegan diet exists. We think that the biggest opportunity for Whole Foods to please both consumer bases lies in offering “clean” crossover products that appeal to both Paleo Dieters and Vegan groups alike: dairy-free, meat-free, grain-free, and legume-free products.
The appeal and potential for paleo vegan products is expanding beyond the small group of people who avoid animal products for ethical reasons to include the much larger base of consumers seeking healthier, cleaner foods such as those in the Paleo Movement. Increased interest in food from mission-based companies, and a desire to be part of a “food tribe” is fueling the growth of both the Paleo and Vegan communities, alike. So why not please both with crossover products?
What we see is an opportunity for Whole Foods to appeal to two growing consumer bases in a way that does not breed resentment or feel like favoritism among consumer groups.
Two birds, one stone.