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Sustained by a generation of health-conscious consumers, Whole Foods Market's rise to the top has been about as natural as the products it places on its shelves.

CEO John Mackey founded the natural-foods supermarket chain 16 years ago, selling to an urban crowd of health-and environment-conscious consumers.

Since that time, Mr. Mackey, 43, has seen Whole Foods Market grow into the largest chain of its kind, dominating the $5 billion health/natural foods retailing industry.

As such foods move more into the mainstream market, Whole Foods distinguishes itself by providing customers the service of a mom-and-pop store in a large grocery setting.

As the leading health/natural foods retailer, Whole Foods has created a national brand identity in a growing business that's dominated by small chains and single-store outlets.

In its most recent fiscal year, the company's sales rose a healthy 24% to $496.4 million, from $401.7 million.

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