Is Whole Foods Straying From Its Roots? - New York Times:
The food may have been more expensive, but for many shoppers it was worth it. Since opening its first store in Austin, Tex., in 1980, Whole Foods has grown from a small business to a mega-chain with 193 stores, capping its rise last week with a deal to acquire the 110 stores of its largest rival, Wild Oats.
The newer stores are getting bigger, too: 60,000- to 80,000-square-foot supermarkets, they have extensive prepared food offerings, along with in-store restaurants, spas, concierge shopping services, gelato stands, chocolate fountains and pizza counters.
While many shoppers find the new stores exhilarating places to shop, the company also faces critics who feel it has strayed from its original vision. In angry postings on blogs, they charge that the store is not living up to its core values — in particular, protecting the environment and supporting organic agriculture and local farmers. In interviews, some of the customers who describe themselves as committed to these values say they have become disillusioned and taken their business elsewhere.