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The Amazonization of Whole Foods-- One Year In



A year ago, Amazon put in $13.7 into wholefoods promising to breathe new tech into their relationship. So how has that promise fared so far?

At the time, Amazon said the goal was, “high-quality, natural and organic food affordable for everyone.” Avocados, bananas, and even tilapias were going to be cheaper than ever. Prime members were going to receive higher benefits, discount rewards, and supposedly, Amazon drones would be delivering their packages directly to their doorstep.

Several other Amazon offerings that involved delivery were also mentioned. This also included the purchasing of Whole Food groceries through a new Amazon Fresh grocery delivery program. Whole Foods private label products were also going to be made available through Prime Pantry and Prime Now. In addition, Amazon lockers would be popping up at select stores to make returns and pick-ups easier for Amazon customers. The best part, of course, was the new jobs that would be created to handle all the new technology coming in.

It didn’t take long for Amazon Echo devices to start showing up in stores, encouraging customers to install them in their homes to make grocery shopping easier through voice commands. Echo dots were on every wall and were surrounded by produce. Amazon, of course, promised to bring in more devices to try in-store ahead of purchases as time goes by.

According to Whole Foods co-founder and CEO John Mackey, “customers have already saved hundreds of millions of dollars,” since the launch.

“So whether it's better priced on your weekly shop, saving time through delivery from Prime Now or taking advantage of incredible weekly deals for Prime members, the overall customer experience is richer and more seamless than it’s ever been,” he continued.

While the changes are noticeable, the experience isn’t exactly what the average customer would consider “richer and more seamless.” If you walk into a local Whole Foods, you’ll see the Amazon branding everywhere, from the large, green Amazon Fresh coolers welcoming you at the entrance, to the deep orange lockers off to the side, and even the rows of bad ready for pickup and delivery by Amazon workers.

You’ll also notice a large “Prime Member Deal” sign hanging from the ceiling, greeting you at the front of the store. Beyond that is the produce section, which was once fresh, free of rot and with all organic labeling. But now, it’s unclear what they stock. There used to be an argument that the “whole paycheque” prices were worth it because they had high-quality produce. However, not everything looks as healthy as before or is organic anymore.

Shoppers across the United States have observed this drop in quality, together with missing produce. Several items that they had been buying for years at their grocery store suddenly seem to be out of stock.

Barclays, the Wall Street investment bank, has called it the “conventionalization” of Whole Foods. They also noted that Mackey had made some comments about cultural “clashes” while he was at the American Production and Inventory Control society’s annual conference