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Whole Foods Amazon Merger: Helpful or Harmful?

There’s no doubt that the Whole Foods Amazon merger will have a huge impact on Americans. Experts are predicting changes in everything from the cost and accessibility of organic foods, to the trajectory of farmers and other grocery retailers, to how we shop for food. But are these changes helpful or harmful to Americans and our food systems? Read on to hear both sides according to many experts in the field!

There's no doubt that Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods will have a huge impact on Americans. Experts are predicting changes in everything from the cost and accessibility of organic foods, to the trajectory of farmers and other grocery retailers, to how we shop for food. But are these changes helpful or harmful to Americans and our food systems? Read on to hear both sides according to many experts in the field!

The news of Amazon buying Whole Foods for $13.7 billion back in June shocked many of us.

Amazon, a company that is known for being efficient, standardized, revolutionary and–let’s be honest, offering probably the most convenient shopping known to man!–has also been in the news for their poor environmental record, some questionable labor practices and price-slashing tactics (source & source).

Meanwhile, Whole Foods, the first ever publicly traded organic foods retailer, led the way in taking fresh, organic, fair trade and sustainable foods into the mainstream. On the other hand, some believe Whole Foods has driven many independently owned natural foods stores out of business, while also advancing consolidation and corporate takeover of the natural foods industry. (source)

So, what does it now mean for consumers and America’s food system that the online mega-giant has acquired a pioneering natural food chain? Let’s see what the experts have to say about the Whole Foods Amazon merger!

There's no doubt that Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods will have a huge impact on Americans. Experts are predicting changes in everything from the cost and accessibility of organic foods, to the trajectory of farmers and other grocery retailers, to how we shop for food. But are these changes helpful or harmful to Americans and our food systems? Read on to hear both sides according to many experts in the field!

Whole Foods Amazon Merger: Helpful

Increased Affordability + Price Drops, Especially on Organic Food

One of the most obvious changes so far is that Whole Foods has dropped prices on many of their best-selling staples like apples, bananas, organic baby kale and lettuce, organic avocados, almond butter, organic butter, organic eggs, organic rotisserie chicken, animal welfare-rated ground beef and responsibly-farmed salmon and tilapia.

Joe Dobrow, an expert on the natural food industry and author of Natural Prophets says, in terms of organics, he can only imagine it bodes well. “Amazon’s reach is far beyond Whole Foods’ reach, and its pockets are deeper,” he says. “If Amazon is able to bring some efficiencies to the Whole Foods operation that drive costs down, then the deal may end up helping to further democratize organics.” (source)

Sheryl O’Loughlin, CEO of Rebbl, agrees. “This acquisition [would allow] many more consumers to access real, fresh and organic foods, which is a huge benefit for the industry and a win for consumers.” (source)

In a nutshell, this means more healthy foods in the hands of more people, all at more affordable prices.

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Whole Foods Amazon Merger: Potentially Harmful

Negative Effects for Cashiers, Farmers + Independent Retailers

CASHIERS

If Amazon’s current practices are any indication, retail jobs may be at risk as robots replace cashiers and Whole Foods workers. “Amazon’s brutal vision for retail is one where automation replaces good jobs,” Marc Perrone, President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, said in a statement. “Sadly, the hard-working men and women who work at Whole Foods now face an uncertain future [because Whole Foods workers are not unionized].”

However, a representative for Amazon said it had no plans for automation, and even if the company sheds in-store employees, a restructuring could involve new hiring elsewhere. A representative for Whole Foods said no layoffs would come as a result of the merger, but did not comment on future employment plans. (source)

FARMERS

Though it seems we’ll see an increase in organic farming, farmers could suffer as the demand for lower cost organic foods rises quickly. It’s possible that many small-scale organic growers could lose their farms as quality and principle are compromised for quantity and lower prices.

INDEPENDENT RETAILERS

The grocery industry is already dominated by a handful of big retailers, and this merger has furthered that direction. John Roulac, CEO and founder of Nutiva, said, “This is an accumulation of a 20-year, Wall Street-funded, corporate roll-up of the organic and natural industry.” (source)

As he points out, the environment could become hyper-competitive, and independent retailers and brands may have even more difficulty being successful. There are even some observers and members of Congress who think the merger may violate antitrust laws. (source)

There's no doubt that Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods will have a huge impact on Americans. Experts are predicting changes in everything from the cost and accessibility of organic foods, to the trajectory of farmers and other grocery retailers, to how we shop for food. But are these changes helpful or harmful to Americans and our food systems? Read on to hear both sides according to many experts in the field!

Whole Foods Amazon Merger: Helpful

Quality Products Now Available Online at Amazon

Whole Foods Market’s private label products (365 Everyday Value, Whole Foods Market, Whole Paws and Whole Catch) will be available through Amazon.com, AmazonFresh, Prime Pantry and Prime Now.

Today, only six percent of food sales are online, so this represents a huge potential for growth and expansion. For example, AmazonFresh – the company’s online grocery delivery and pickup service – aims to allow customers to order food online and have it ready for pickup within 15 minutes.

John Foraker, President of Annie’s, said, “This should allow organic brands to reach every corner of the country, and eventually the world. This is particularly important because getting onto the shelf at retailers nationally is both very challenging and expensive.” (source) For example, people who live in food deserts without access to fresh, healthy food could now have greater access to good food on account of expanded online sales.

report from the Food Marketing Institute and Nielsen found that only around a quarter of U.S. households currently shop online for groceries, but predicts that more than 70% will do so within 10 years. In particular, millennials are the largest group of consumers using online grocery shopping.

Like it or not, online grocery shopping is part of the future, and innovative Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder) now has a huge impact on defining this next direction for America.

RELATED:  The Top 7 Online Sources for Organic, Sustainable + Grass-Fed Meat Delivery

Whole Foods Amazon Merger: Potentially Harmful

Risk of Lower Standards + Quality

As pressure is put on the industry to lower the price of organic foods, organic standards may suffer.

As major grocers go, Whole Foods is known for its commitment to quality standards. Amazon is known for selling anything, quickly and for the lowest price. That combination could mean diluted standards on Whole Foods’ quality.

Gunnar Lovelace, CEO of Thrive Market, which offers organic and natural products at discounted prices, said,“I’ve looked extensively at consumer responses to the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods and there is a lot of concern about Amazon getting too big and of not being a trustworthy source of groceries – which validates our investment in an authentic brand, clean-transparent supply chains, genuine community and advocacy work as a business.” (source)

Vani Hari, founder of the investigative site FoodBabe.com, agrees and shared with us that, “Although this will likely make organic foods more available to a greater number of consumers, I have big concerns that the integrity of the product selection at Whole Foods will go downhill.”

Hari continued, “The news recently broke that Whole Foods will be centralizing their operations, making most decisions from the top as to what they will carry in their stores. I feel that small organic local companies will be lost in the shuffle and Big Food organics like Organic Doritos will proliferate. I’ve already seen the decline of new, cutting edge health brands on shelves and the move to consolidate sourcing is going to have an impact on what’s available. ”

Whole Foods CEO John Mackey shared that quality standards at Whole Foods would remain the same after the merger, but many say this is likely to soon be out of his control. (source)

There's no doubt that Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods will have a huge impact on Americans. Experts are predicting changes in everything from the cost and accessibility of organic foods, to the trajectory of farmers and other grocery retailers, to how we shop for food. But are these changes helpful or harmful to Americans and our food systems? Read on to hear both sides according to many experts in the field!

Whole Foods Amazon Merger: Helpful

Accessibility of Healthy + Organic Food Across the Country – Not Just Online

In order to be competitive, other grocery stores are going to need to offer more organic food. More people are demanding food that is good for people and the planet, and this merger could help grow and sustain this trend. Thus organic, plant-powered food could become more accessible, and more affordable.

“If anything, broader availability of foods with Whole Foods’ very high standards should raise the bar for the entire market and retailers everywhere, in order to compete,” Foraker told Max Goldberg. “That will be good for farmers, ranchers, and the sustainability of our food supply.” (source)

Whole Foods Amazon Merger: Potentially Harmful

The Perpetuation of ‘Fast Food’ Culture

Alice Waters, founder of the original farm-to-table restaurant Chez Panisse in California and a leader in the local-food movement in Washington D.C., shared in an interview with the Washington Post her fears of technology interfering with our sensory connection to food and our human connection with each other.

Waters states, “The idea of mechanization, really, I think, goes against a food culture of humanity that’s been around since the beginning of civilization. It’s the closeness to nature that’s ultimately going to heal us, and our preservation of it.” She later continues, “I’ve heard that 85 percent of kids at this country don’t have one meal at the table. We’re losing our connection. And certainly technology is interfering with that.”

Instead, Water proposes our focus be on taking care of the land for future generations and really making an effort to inform people about the real cost of food and how it can be affordable, but never cheap. “When it’s cheap, it’s part of a fast food indoctrination. We have these ideas about uniformity, about advertising conferring value, about fast, cheap and easy. And food has never been that.”

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What do you think about the Whole Foods Amazon merger? What changes do you think it will bring? Let us know in the comments below! 


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Photo Credit: Heidi Geldhauser

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I've linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.

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3 comments on “Whole Foods Amazon Merger: Helpful or Harmful?”

  1. About two years ago, I stopped buying anything from Amazon that goes either into or onto my body. Do an online search on “amazon counterfeit products” to see why. They are untrustworthy.

  2. Wow, what an interesting article! I hadn’t really considered all of these pros and cons before. Very enlightening!