The country's largest organic and natural foods chain, Whole Foods, is running its first national marketing campaign. The push now appearing on billboards, magazines, on TV and online marks a major departure for a company long focused on regional marketing.
The strategy is being led by Jeannine D'Addario, VP-communications, who came to Whole Foods in August, and its goal is to make the Whole Foods brand stand out among increasing competition in the organic market. The ads carry the tagline "Values Matter" and feature images of livestock and farms bathed in golden light. They were designed by Partners & Spade, which has created campaigns for Warby Parker, Target and AOL.
The push aims to make the $14.2 billion chain's name synonymous with humanely and sustainably grown food and fair labor practices. The company is already known for its food and high prices, but the organic goods it sells are close to becoming ubiquitous at supermarket chains and corner grocers. Whole Foods hopes that if customers define themselves by what they buy, they will want to shop at its store.
"What we've asked [our ad agency] to do is tell everybody what's different, what we value, the standards that we've established that are higher than anyone else's," Ms. D'Addario told Bloomberg TV. "Consumers are really hungry to learn about where their food comes from and how it's sourced."
When looking to buy organic produce and pantry items, shoppers have a lot of places to choose from. Three out of four conventional grocery stores carry organic goods, according to a 2014 U.S. Department of Agriculture study.
Whole Foods launches the campaign as other supermarket chains such as Kroger, Safeway, and Walmart offering more organic options. Kroger, for example, advertises its Simple Truth organic line as "Free From 101," emphasizing the lack of artificial ingredients.
"Natural and organic products are increasingly available, yet no one offers the shopping experience we offer. We hold the idea of 'food' to a higher standard," said Walter Robb, co-chief executive officer of Whole Foods Market in the company's last earning statement. "Our unparalleled quality standards are a large part of why we maintain a broad base of loyal customers and attract new customers aspiring to a natural and organic lifestyle."
For the fourth quarter ended Sept. 28, the chain had $3.3 billion in sales, up 9%. Same-store sales advanced 3.1%.
Ms. D'Addario said that Whole Foods has been using sustainable business practices long before they came into fashion. Whole Foods won't sell meat from animals raised on antibiotics; it rates all of the seafood it sells; it voluntarily label foods made with genetically engineered ingredients.
Whole Foods is starting to appeal to customers in other ways as well. A rewards program to retain customers is being tested at several stores in the Atlantic region and an rating system for its fruits, vegetables, and fresh flowers spreads the perception of responsible production to customers in-store.