Tensions between Whole Foods Market and some of the most important brands it sells in its stores will come to a head on March 19, when they will congregate for a recently announced summit, sources familiar with the situation tell CNBC.
The grocer notified certain vendors about the meeting by email last Saturday. It is set to reassure the brands of relations after Whole Foods' sale to Amazon. It comes after a rocky few months for the grocer, which has been trying to shift from a local orientation to a national one, without sacrificing the selection and relations that set it apart from larger peers like Kroger and Albertsons.
Some of those efforts, like its move to centralize purchases, preceded its sale to Amazon. However, any change the grocer makes is drawing more scrutiny amid the uncertainty following Amazon's acquisition.
Meantime, Whole Foods' limited communication about the status of these changes has been a point of frustration, according to multiple vendors that spoke to CNBC.
A major point of debate for its larger vendors is the new servicing fee, proposed in the last few months, which will charge vendors for Whole Foods' efforts to centralize its merchandising, sources said. Still, some of the sources noted their reliance on Whole Foods as a customer gives them little power with which to bargain.
Traditionally, with both Whole Foods and most grocers, food companies could pay brokers to help manage everything that happens from the grocery stock room to the shelves. The distance from the back room to shelves has been called some of the most expensive mileage on the planet.