Whole Foods: Whole paycheck isn’t required | AspenTimes.com

Whole Foods: Whole paycheck isn’t required

Scott CondonThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO, Colorado

Scott Condon The Aspen Times

BASALT – Everybody knows the old joke that shopping at Whole Foods Market eats your whole paycheck. Company officials say the joke is no longer on them.Whole Foods revamped its pricing during the Great Recession so it would retain shoppers and appeal to a broader range of folks.”We have become much more competitive with our pricing over the last two years,” said Ben Friedland, Rocky Mountain Region spokesman for Whole Foods Market.Friedland stressed that Whole Foods offers a variety of selections in its natural and organic groceries. There are definitely high-end brands that are expensive, he said, but there are less expensive and competitively priced alternatives. Chief among them is Whole Foods’ 365 Everyday Value in-house label. Products in that line are available in every department except produce.Prices at the Basalt store were still being tweaked Monday in preparation for the grand opening Wednesday, so Whole Foods officials didn’t want prices quoted yet. However, Friedland showed several example where 365 private-label products were several dollars cheaper to less than a dollar cheaper than other offerings within the store. The 365 olive oil, for example, was marked Monday at $7.99 per 34-ounce bottle, while customers also could choose Lucini at $19.99 for a 25.5-ounce bottle.The in-house Greek yogurt was three for $4, or $1 less than a name brand. The 365 alternative for almond milk was 30 cents cheaper than a name brand for a half gallon.”These are not promotional prices. These are everyday prices,” Friedland said, adding that the company will welcome price comparisons to other grocers in the Roaring Fork Valley.The company’s website says that by selecting 365-brand products, shopper can “fill your pantry without emptying your pocketbook.” By offering an in-house alternative, Whole Foods can avoid associated costs like marketing for a particular product. Whole Foods also has between 1,500 and 2,000 products on sale at any given time, he said.Friedland said the lower-priced alternatives are truly competitive with other grocery stores in the Roaring Fork Valley. Whole Foods isn’t just offering different-priced products for wealthy shoppers, he said.”This is a store for everyone in this valley,” Friedland said.That’s not just the company line. Standard & Poor’s Rating Service boosting its credit rating of Whole Foods Market last week. Part of the rating service company’s reasoning was the company’s “pricing, promotional, and merchandising strategies have driven transactions and customer loyalty.”Standard & Poor also noted that the natural and organic segment of the retail food industry is growing “considerably faster” than the grocery industry as a whole. In other words, people are willing to pay more for natural and organic products.Friedland acknowledged that there are certain products where a premium price must be charged. Whole Foods Roaring Fork will feature locally-raised, grass-fed beef from Crystal River Meats of Carbondale. There is an extra cost associated with providing beef from a smaller-scale operation that avoids the mainstream way of providing meat in America, he said.Conquering the perception that Whole Foods requires a whole paycheck is the challenge. Whole Foods Roaring Fork will offer “value tours” at least once per month to educate shoppers on how to find the bargains, said Amy Kasper, community relations and marketing director for the Basalt store.About 960 eager and curious shoppers took “sneak peak” tours to check out the new store on Sunday and Monday. The store officially opens at 10 a.m. Wednesday, with a “bread-breaking ceremony” shortly before opening. Vendors will provide free samples of food and products, and a bluegrass band will play from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.scondon@aspentimes.com