Groceryshop 2022: Whole Foods CEO Talks Grocer's Evolution

Whole Foods CEO Jason Buechel discussed how the retailer is continuing to evolve at the opening day of Groceryshop 2022.
Zachary Russell
Associate Editor
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Whole Foods Market’s CEO Jason Buechel spoke about product sourcing, where the retailer is headed and more in his keynote interview that helped kick-off Groceryshop 2022 in Las Vegas, NV.

Interviewed by Joe Laszlo, VP of content at Groceryshop, Buechel discussed his first year as CEO of the better-for-you grocer and how he envisions the company evolving.

“One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed doing over the last six months is visiting all of our regions and all of our support functions,” said Buechel. “For me, one of the things that’s going to be really important going forward is that we have a strategy that everyone understands, and one of the opportunities that we have is to be more store-centric going forward."

Whole Foods Jason Buechel Groceryshop 2022
Whole Foods CEO Jason Buechel

The CEO spoke about bringing back the “theater of retail,” a more engaging in-store experience that may have gone by the wayside during the pandemic as customers opted for the convenience and initial safety of grocery pickup and delivery.

“It’s been a little bit difficult over the pandemic, but our customers do look for that amazing experience,” he said. “Some of them [the new in-store experiences] are going to be around the products and offerings that we sell, some are going to be around the store design and the experiences we bring to life, some of them are going to be about technology that simplifies those things.”

Buechel pointed to the Whole Foods Manhattan West location as a model for a renovated in-store experience, allowing more ways for customers to see fresh offerings prepared.

Whole Foods items
Whole Foods' private label products

“Not only do we have amazing theater where you can see team members preparing and making amazing offerings for our customers, but you get sort of an in-depth look at many different parts of the store,” he said. “One of the things I love here is our butcher station, where you can see our butchers hard at work.”

Founded in 1980, Whole Foods helped mainstream the natural and organic grocery store. Buechel said building on the grocer’s higher product standards and offering more transparency is key to differentiating itself from other grocers.

“In addition to the quality standards, there’s things like Sourced for Good which helps us identify products that have taken the next level of advancement,” he said. “Ultimately we’re making true impact in the places these products are being produced. For me, this is one of the things that I’m excited about. We can continue to differentiate the programs that we bring to market, and they’re great for Whole Foods but they’re great for our broader stakeholders as well.”

In addition to sustainably sourced and traceable products, Whole Foods is still focused on offering local products to its customers.

“Since 2017, we’ve increased the number of local offerings by 30%,” said Buechel. “We currently have over 3,000 unique local products on our shelves, and this is not only important for our customers as they seek out unique differentiation, but we also think it's an important role for us in the communities we serve."