Whole Foods Has Made A Significant Change To Its Leadership

If you felt uneasy about Amazon's acquisition of Whole Foods five years ago, hold on to your carts because Whole Foods may be in for another sea change. As of September 1, the nation's first certified organic national grocer has a new CEO (via Whole Foods Market). John Mackey, co-founder of Whole Foods and CEO since 1980 (per Insider), announced his retirement plans in September 2021. Chief Operating Officer Jason Buechel will be taking Mackey's place.

In his announcement to the Whole Foods team, Mackey described himself as a father figure in the company. He told his employees, "All parents reach a time when they must let go and trust that the values imparted will live on within their children." He assured the team by saying, "Jason is a true servant leader and champion of Whole Foods' culture and values, and he will lead the company into the future. Jason was my personal choice to replace me as the CEO, and I'm pleased Amazon leadership agreed that he is the right person for the role."

Whole Foods' changing direction

Employees were dubious about the last shift in Whole Foods' culture when Amazon bought the company in 2017. The two companies are generally seen as having different images. Namely, Whole Foods developed a reputation for being socially conscious, as it has previously noted on its website. Meanwhile, some have portrayed Amazon as a corporate goliath with controversial practices. For example, Bernie Sanders proposed legislation against Amazon due to its high percentage of employees using food stamps. Sanders wrote, "All over this country, many Amazon employees, who work for the wealthiest person on Earth, are paid wages so low they can't make ends meet. That is absurd" (via The Counter).

However, Whole Foods weathered the transition. According to a 2018 analysis by Sense360, store visits increased nationwide in 2018 after Amazon's takeover. That included customers choosing to shop at Whole Foods over a nearby Trader Joe's 3.5 % more often. Offering discounts on Whole Foods purchases to Amazon prime members likely increased interest. But it seems Whole Foods' new leader, Jason Buechel, hasn't forgotten the company's roots. He explained during the WSJ Global Food Forum, "One of my top goals is to reignite the connection to our higher Purpose, mission, and core values" (per WebWire). That purpose, per the Whole Foods website, "is to nourish people and the planet."