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Amazon is doing exactly what Whole Foods would've done — just faster, says Panera founder

  • Amazon has the capital to make changes faster, said Panera founder and former Whole Foods board member Ron Shaich.
  • Amazon has dropped prices and introduced some of its own products at Whole Foods locations since completing the sale in August.
  • Shaich said it was pressure from activist investors that ultimately pushed the sale through.
Lauren Thomas | CNBC

As the new owner of Whole Foods, Amazon is doing exactly what the grocery chain would've done on its own, but has the capital to do it faster, said Panera founder and former Whole Foods board member Ron Shaich.

"What is Amazon doing that Whole Foods wasn't going to do?" Shaich told CNBC for Fortt Knox. "They're doing the same thing — lowering the prices to compete. And they're bringing the technology to bear, but they have air cover."

Amazon has dropped prices and introduced some of its own products at Whole Foods locations since completing the sale in August.

The e-commerce giant this week opened a high-tech convenience store with "Just Walk Out" technology that eliminates the need for cashiers or registers. The company has no plans to introduce the technology into Whole Foods stores just yet.

Shaich was on the board of Whole Foods when Amazon approached the health food grocer about a buyout. He said it was pressure from activist investors that ultimately pushed the sale through.

"The environment had changed," he said. "You had Walmart and Target coming into organics. You had Aldi and Lidl coming in. There was going to be increasing price pressure. There needed to be significant investment in technology to adjust. And I think with activists at the door there wasn't the room quite frankly for them to take a long-term approach."

Watch the full Fortt Knox interview: