CHICAGO - Whole Foods growing, with plans to triple its store count to 1,000 while opening locations in so-called "food deserts" and smaller markets, the Chicago Tribune reports.
"We're accelerating growth," said Walter Robb, the chain's co-CEO. "That's going to take us places we have not been to before."
Food industry consultant Jack Horst suggested that the move is odd for a chain that€™s known for selling higher-priced organic foods. "How successful are you going to be when you're in a neighborhood that skews toward more middle-class or to people who shop more at a Save-A-Lot?" said Horst. "Maybe they don't need five different kinds of kale."
Whole Foods is also planning to open stores in smaller markets, following recent launches in Glen Mills, Pa., and West Des Moines, Iowa. In those smaller markets, stores will feature pared down food selections. "Instead of having an eight-foot rice section, you might have a four-foot rice section, maybe just a few less varieties," Robb said.
Whole Foods is not alone in targeting underserved areas and smaller markets. Walmart, Walgreens and SuperValu recently announced plans to open stores in food deserts, in partnership with First Lady Michelle Obama.
While Whole Foods looks to more non-traditional locations, it is also beefing up its presence in popular markets. "We're nowhere near saturated in Chicago or Boston or Los Angeles or San Francisco," Robb said.
The new Whole Foods will range in size from 15,000 square feet to 75,000 square feet.