Funny Business with Jane Wells

What Quinoa Can Tell You About Whole Foods

Dragon Tongue Bean at Whole Foods.
Photo by: Jason Jepson

I call Whole Foods the Apple of grocers. Get it? Apple ?

Like the company which brought you the iPhone, the company which exposed you to quinoa has a reputation for beating earnings estimates. We'll see if that trend continues for a 14th straight quarter after the bell Wednesday.

Much of Whole Foods' growth is...wait for (Here all week! Try the veal!) And part of that is due to a health conscious clientele which sees going there as equal parts shopping and exploring. You've seen them, those cart-pushing customers at a dead stop in the middle of an aisle, trying to figure out how one can make a gluten free, non dairy pizza taste good.

My own "discovery" has been quinoa, a couscous looking vegetable ... substance. I first saw it at Whole Foods. (The cashier explained it's pronounced KEEN-wah.)

Since I first bought it two years ago, I feel like I've seen quinoa mentioned everywhere.

So I created the Jane Wells Quinoa Index.

The better Whole Foods stock does, the more often you hear about quinoa.

For example, quinoa was mentioned in 785 articles and press releases in 2009, according to a search on Nexis. Last year, that jumped to 1,733, a 121 percent increase. During that same period, Whole Food shares jumped 642 percent. COINCIDENCE?

So far this year, Whole Foods shares are up about 20 percent, and quinoa mentions are trending toward 13 percent growth.

But quinoa is hardly the only offbeat item to be found at Whole Foods. I asked folks on Twitter to name the oddest products they've found. 

Here's a sampling:

  • Dry rubbed dog bone for $6 ("I bought it, of course...for my dog," says @mariamorrison.)
  • Persian Pomegranate Powder ("$18.99!" gasps @MysteryHelmer.)
  • Caramel Flavored Dietary Rice Cakes ("Weird but genuinely effective calorie-wise...will I be losing my man-card now?" asks @Guy34VE.)
  • Salmon. Salmon? ("Apparently filled with gold judging by the price per pound," says @DarylT.)
  • But @rewashednews (aka Jason Jepson) took it a step forward. He lives near Whole Foods' headquarters in Austin, and he went shopping this morning, snapping pictures of oddities.
  • Here's my favorite: dragon tongue beans. Enticing! That is, if you're a space alien. Perhaps I shouldn't be so harsh. Dragon tongue beans are described as "a flavorful, juicy bean which can be picked and used like a snap bean or allowed to mature into a shell bean," says

I'll take their word for it. I'm still trying to get used to the taste of quinoa.

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