Whole Foods trailblazed the organic food movement 35 years ago with its first store in Austin, Texas. Over the decades, it has successfully convinced many Americans that going organic is worth the extra cost. Even as the earnings it reported this week disappointed Wall Street, the company "first and foremost, stands for the highest quality," co-CEO John Mackey told analysts.
The organic industry grew to nearly $40 billion in U.S. sales last year, according to the Organic Trade Association. Demand has ballooned, and so have supplies, even creating challenges for the USDA organic certification process.
At the same time, Whole Foods has added another layer and another label to fresh produce with the Responsibly Grown program, which allows conventional, nonorganic growers to be recognized for good practices.
"Responsibly Grown is a program that we rolled out over the course of the last year to help us add an additional level of transparency," said Matt Rogers, global produce coordinator at Whole Foods.