miércoles, diciembre 22, 2004

The Whole Foods Shebang

An interview with John Mackey, founder of Whole Foods

By Amanda Griscom Little
17 Dec 2004
John Mackey
John Mackey wants you to buy his organic squash.
He's the Bill Gates of organic foods. John Mackey, founder and CEO of the Whole Foods empire, started his original health-food store, called Safer Way, in a garage in Austin, Texas, in 1978. Local farmers would drop off produce from junky old pickups, hippie bakers would supply nut loaves and 20-grain bran muffins. It was strictly vegetarian, just like Mackey himself.

But he soon realized he'd have to change his tune if he wanted to hit the big time, and change it he did. Whole Foods now offers everything from beer and rack of lamb to yoga mats and air-freighted mangoes in the wintertime, at more than 150 stores throughout the U.S. and a handful in Canada and the U.K.

Mackey, meanwhile, has emerged as both a hero and antihero of the environmental movement. On the one hand, he makes no apologies for running a large, consolidated operation that imports produce and displaces local farmers and small vendors. A notorious foe of unions, he's a staunch libertarian described by The New York Times Magazine as a man "who admires Ronald Reagan and prefers The Wall Street Journal editorial page to this newspaper's."

On the other hand, nobody can dispute that Mackey led the fight to put organic on the mainstream map and make it more available to average folks. He's placed a cap on executive compensation -- his own included -- and prefers to take a longer view of financial health than the quarterly model favored in the corporate world, to accommodate forward-thinking projects like humane animal-treatment standards, which he recently introduced.

Mackey spoke with Grist from the Whole Foods headquarters in Austin, Texas, about the pleasures of eating, his business philosophy, and the strategy that could build Whole Foods into a $30 billion monolith by 2020.


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