Whole Foods is the big player in Organic groceries, and arguably, for the entire LOHAS Industry (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability). I will be devoting some future posts to understanding Whole Foods. With a market cap of $6.7B and no signs of slowing down, Whole Foods has tried to stay true to its values, inspite of its rapid growth.
To understand the market for Green products, it is good to know how Whole Foods selects it's store locations. Whole Foods stores tend to be located in upper income, liberal leaning enclaves. As green products become more mainstream and affordable, will we see Whole Foods expand beyond their current geographic areas?
Here is a map of Whole Foods stores in the mainland U.S. I aggregated stores by county: LA county has the highest number of Whole Foods stores. (To enlarge, Click on an image.)
One can also aggregate the number of active locations by State:
In these next maps I added stores currently in development. The first graph is an aggregate at the county level, and the second graph is an aggregate at the state level:
Illinois is joining Texas and Massachusetts with just below 20 active and pending locations, most of the stores serve the Chicago metro area. California is far and away their biggest market, further cementing the state's reputation for being at the leading edge of lifestyle trends.
At this time, Whole Foods is expanding carefully, and is generally sticking to the same metro areas. The market for organic foods is growing, and I have to believe there is an opportunity for someone to capture this market in the states & metro areas that Whole Foods is currently ignoring. Will Wild Oats dominate, or will the "mainstream" grocery chains slowly capture the market for Organic foods, in these other regions? From a logistics and distribution POV, the mainstream grocers who are already in these regions can easily expand their offerings of Organics foods. So how does Whole foods keep growing at a rate to make its investors happy? I think their strategy is clearly to keep adding to their current locations, and to take advantage of their scale and distribution centers.