Whole Foods CEO hints at another brand under Amazon

Reuters — After Amazon.com completes its takeover of high-end grocer Whole Foods Market, it might launch another brand with different standards, the grocery chain’s chief executive said in remarks reported in a securities filing on Monday.

Amazon plans to keep the natural grocer’s high standards, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said, adding, “They’re not stupid enough to go change that.” The filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission contained a transcript of a town hall meeting for Whole Foods employees held on Friday.

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But Mackey, at the town hall, said, “Over time, there could be other formats that evolve that — that might — wouldn’t be branded Whole Foods Market, potentially, wouldn’t be our standards.”

The remarks offered a preview into how e-commerce giant Amazon might turn around the sluggish sales of Whole Foods since announcing on Friday it would buy the company for US$13.7 billion, including debt.

The Whole Foods chain today includes about 465 retail stores, mainly in the U.S., with seven in Ontario, six in British Columbia and nine in the U.K.

Industry observers have said that Amazon may add a selection of discounted, non-organic food to distance the chain from its “Whole Paycheque” nickname.

Mackey said Amazon’s innovations will help the grocer transform from “class dunce” in technology to “class valedictorian.”

— Reporting for Reuters by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco.

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