Whole Foods Promises to Keep Local Touch at Supplier Summit

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One of Whole Foods Market's newest locations in Bridgewater, N.J.

Roughly 200 suppliers met with Whole Foods Market this week in Austin, TX,  to clear the air amid growing tensions over merchandising costs and other changes that were in place before the Amazon acquisition.

Senior executives officially unveiled the Amazon Prime loyalty program, which will give exclusive Whole Foods Market discounts to Prime members and extra savings on regular weekly discounts, reported Fortune.

In addition, executives insisted local merchandising and local product sourcing would continue to be part of the Whole Foods Market brand.

In an interview with Fortune, A.C. Gallo, Whole Foods president and COO, said regional buyers will continue to exist and be freed to look for new products.

WholeFoods Magazine saw this in action while taking the opportunity this week to tour N.J.’s  newest Whole Foods Market in Bridgewater. Scheduled to open today, opening was pushed back to Friday because of a nor’easter forecast to paralyze the region.

Among the new merchandising concepts the 49,000-square-foot store is testing is a mushroom farm created in partnership with Smallwood, a Brooklyn based organic mushroom farm. The climate-controlled minifarm is monitored from the Smallwood studio and will alert the store when the mushrooms are ready to harvest.

If the concept is successful, the plan is to roll it out into other locations.

Also present is a Juice + Kombucha in-store tap system dispensing local beverage brands Pilot kombucha and Ripe juices.  Juice Press of New York, is operating the store’s fresh juice bar.

Another distinctive feature is Plant & Plate, a new lifestyle shop inside the store offers beauty, garden and home goods rooted in nature. Bridgewater potter Keiko Inouye’s work is featured prominently. Jewelry, greeting cards, candles, plants and floral crafts all have Jersey or Brooklyn roots.

Bridgewater Coffee & Kitchen is another new concept, offering all-day dining, featuring pastries, soups, salads and sandwiches. Gatherings are encouraged with a community space that features an outdoor fire pit.

Aggressive pricing was also on display with general supermarket-like deals such as Annie’s mac and cheese products on an endcap at 10 boxes for $10 — a national promotion.

Fresh food merchandising offered bundles to make your own meal-kit. The Whole Body section is extensive. Click any image below to expand the photos.

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