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Whole Foods CEO on growth, new chain

Whole Foods Market co-CEO Walter Robb said on Thursday that he attributes the slowdown in comparable sales growth to the company's own self-inflicted cannibalization.

Whole Foods has been opening several stores in Florida and Chicago, with an opening every six weeks in the latter, said Robb during CNBC's "Squawk on the Street." In his opinion, the company is heading where growth is and the opening of stores explains the hit to comparable sales, which will eventually pick up.

"You disrupt yourself or others disrupt you," said Robb.

Whole Foods stock price was down 12 percent to about $41.73 on Thursday morning after the second-quarter earnings release revealed a decrease in the number of comparable store sales growth but rallied some by midday.

Comparable store sales growth was 3.6 percent in the second quarter, compared to 4.5 percent in the previous quarter.

Robb said that the comparable sales metrics was not the only number that mattered.

"You look within the numbers you see 10 percent growth, you see 11 percent square footage growth, you see $1,000 of square foot on sales and you see 40 new stores coming this year with a lot of momentum there," Robb said.

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A chain for millennials

Whole Foods announced in its earnings release the launch of a chain that will target millennials looking for products at cheaper prices.

"Clearly this is where the customer is and we are trying to serve the customer," said Robb. "The younger-generation customer continues to look for new choices. You see lots of new formats coming into the market."

Jessica Ventura, one of the Northeast press contacts for Whole Foods, told CNBC on Thursday she wasn't sure if the new chain, which will feature lower prices to target millennials, would have a new name or not.

Walter Robb
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Walter Robb

Investors have expressed concerns about the launch of this new chain that can be perceived as a decline in Whole Foods' faith in its business model. Yet, Robb describes the move as an offensive one, which he will give the company "another growth vehicle to take Whole Foods into the future."

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The new chain will complement Whole Foods' current one, Robb said.

"We will be able to leverage the common structure, but also be able to create new growth for the company in both directions," added Robb