8 Interesting Tidbits From Whole Foods's Town Hall Following the Amazon Acquisition
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On Friday, after the announcement that Amazon would acquire Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion, the grocery company held a town hall meeting with its employees. Here are the most interesting bits of the executives’ remarks during the meeting (edited for length and clarity).
1. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey: The Whole Foods executives felt 'love at first sight' with Amazon.
"Putting it a little bit in narrative form -- how did we meet? It was actually mutual friends set us up on a blind date. And we just fell in love. It was truly love at first sight. ... We talked for two and a half hours. I think we coulda talked for 10 hours. And when we huddled together, it was like we just had these big grins on our faces, like, 'These guys are amazing.' They’re so smart. They’re so authentic. They say what’s on their mind. They’re not playin’ a bunch of BS games. And it was like, 'This is gonna be so incredible.' ‘Cause we were talkin’ about the things we can do together, things that I cannot talk about today and won’t be able to talk about until this deal closes.
"So it’s been a whirlwind courtship. Because -- little over six weeks after we met on this blind date, we’re officially engaged, as of today. But like an old traditional marriage, where there are all kinds of rules and chaperones, we can’t consummate the marriage, until we’re actually officially hooked up. This is not a Tinder relationship."
2. Mackey: Whole Foods will evolve with Amazon's help.
"It’s gonna be such a good thing for our customers. And although I can’t tell you all the amazing things that’s gonna happen over time -- one thing I absolutely love, love so much about Amazon is they think long term.
"They have had the courage that almost no other public company has had the courage to, basically, resist the drumbeat of short-term, quarterly earnings that have had us trapped here for a couple of years, as our same-store sales came down.
"And so we will be joining a company that’s visionary. I don’t know if you know that they were, like, ranked the number-one most innovative company in the entire world. I think we’re gonna get a lot of those innovations in our stores. I think we’re gonna see a lotta technology. I think you’re gonna see Whole Foods Market evolve in leaps and bounds."
3. Mackey: The Amazon acquisition is a literal dream come true.
"This is kind of the dream come true. And I will tell you something. About a year and a half ago, I dreamed that we merged with Amazon. I woke up, and I told my wife about it. And she said, 'That’s crazy.' And I said, 'I know. That’s really weird, isn’t it?'
4. Amazon CEO of Worldwide Consumer Jeff Wilke: Whole Foods changed my life.
"I met a bunch of people on the West Coast who were eating in a different way. And they changed my health. They changed the way I thought about food. Changed the way I thought about raising kids and what we would feed them. And you pioneered this. You drove people to think differently about what they ingest and how they go about their day, which is kind of remarkable.
"So I went from kinda meat and potatoes to adding a little fish. You know, it’s baby steps. And about six years ago, I kinda removed most carbs from the way I was eating. And that really highlights the produce that you’re consuming. At that point, you’re eating a lotta fruits and vegetables.
"And it matters where you get them from. And the quality that you’ve built into that part of the operation, in addition to everything else has really changed my life.
"When I walk around the stores, I notice an attention to detail, quality, customer experience that is very rare."
5. Mackey: Our standards will remain.
"Whole Foods Market’s quality standards are not gonna change. I mean, there’s no intention to do that. We’ve got a lot invested in our brand. And these guys are really smart people. They’re not stupid enough to go change that.
“Over time, there could be other formats that evolve that might -- wouldn’t be branded Whole Foods Market, potentially, wouldn’t be our standards. So but the Whole Foods Market stores and our brands, they’re gonna stay. All the quality standards we have, the integrity we have behind our products and our brand, those are gonna be intact."
6. Mackey: Leadership will evolve.
"There’ll be leadership changes at Whole Foods Market. But they’re just not gonna be, I don’t think, forced on us by Amazon. We’re gonna evolve. We need to evolve. We wanna make this deal, because we think they can help us evolve quicker and better than we could do on our own.
"So I don’t want people goin’ away thinkin’ that nothin’s gonna change around here. ‘Cause things are gonna change. There’s just no question about that. So I don’t know if they have any plans for, you know, but in a good marriage, you know, we want Amazon people to be here. And we want Whole Foods people to be at Amazon. ... When this deal closes, we’re all Amazon people. We’re not Whole Foods people and Amazon people. We’re all Amazon people. We’re one large tribe, one large family.
"We wanna get away from any kinda us vs. them. We are going to be one. So I hope, I pray, that there are some brilliant people from Seattle and other parts of the world that are here, as -- as Amazonians and Whole Foodies -- here."
7. Mackey: We'll learn from Amazon to put customers first.
"One of the things they do better than us, they are more customer-centric than we are. … By God, we’re gonna become as customer-centric as Amazon. We’re gonna import their passion about that. Because I think, sometimes, our company’s gone a little bit too much team-member focus at the expense of our customers. … They put the customer first in everything they do and think backwards. And we’re gonna be the same way.
"We do care about our customers. So don’t misunderstand me. I just feel like there’s an opportunity for us to learn from them and do even better.”
8. Mackey: The Amazon acquisition will impact Whole Foods's culture.
"But our culture is going to evolve. I just wanna make sure everybody understands that. It’s gonna evolve in very constructive, positive ways. It’s going to be us pulling it in, for the most part. It’s gonna be us learning and saying, 'That is so cool, what they’re doing,' and making it part of us.
"Plus, their people will intermarry with our people -- and, probably, literally. And it’s inevitable that there’ll be some cultural mingling. And we will also influence their culture. That’s just the way it is.
"I mean, it’s natural to be a little bit insecure about the unknown, you know?
"At the end of the day, you can talk all you want to. The proof occurs once you begin living together, and the day-to-day interactions, right? So all I know is that these are great people with big hearts and big ideals that wanna make the world a better place and are making the world a better place. They’re the perfect company for us. There’s no better company in the entire world for Whole Foods Market than this company right here. We just hit the lottery, gang. This is gonna be so incredibly wonderful."