Whole Foods Market – How Social Media is Influencing The Supply Chain

jeffdbaldwin    October 23, 2014

Title: Whole Foods Market – Using Social Media To Influence The Supply Chain

Organization Name: Whole Foods Market

Industry: Food, Supermarket   

Name of Contact: John Mackey (Founder and CEO)


Who Are They?

Whole Foods Market is an American grocery retailer that specializes in providing natural and organic food options throughout their supermarket style stores. It currently has just shy of 400 stores located throughout the USA, Canada, and the UK. Their corporate values and mission are centred on the incorporation of various factors into the very essence of their business: responsible farming, high quality, sustainability, animal welfare, and social consciousness. Their goal is to be “The Worlds Healthiest Grocery Store”. The grocery chain was founded in 1980 in Texas and has come a long way in their efforts.

Check out the brief YouTube clip below to watch a promotional clip about the company and what they are doing! Also, for more info you can visit their corporate website. 


Social Media + Supply Chain

In the last decade, the push for healthy eating, organic produce, and overall sustainability has seen a tremendous boost of publicity into the mainstream public. Whole Foods has thrived in this environment, especially through their superb use of social media. At the forefront of their social media efforts has been the willingness to incorporate customer demands throughout the entire company. Whole Foods Market has used various mediums to connect with customers (and more recently employees) seeking recommendations, feedback, and complaints into their supply chain.

What exactly are they doing? 

1)  They have a community manager at every store location to directly interact with the local customers and relay information back to the company

2) They allow customer and employee engagement to occur naturally, with pros and cons all being voiced throughout – with negatives being actively addressed and changed

3) They use Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and YouTube (among others) to really interact with their customers – on whichever medium they prefer to use

4) They train their entire team on how to manage and interact with social media accounts and customer service

As a result of this involvement, Whole Foods Markets gained a lot of insight into what customers want. One of the most notably has been related to their supply chain. In an effort to make the supply chain process transparent, they have educated the public on these issues, asked for recommendations, and welcomed criticism. This has become commonplace, and the public has been strongly demanding even more natural/organic/sustainable/socially conscious foods and even now that the processes throughout the entire chain follow suit. This has increased exponentially in recent years. These demands have directly translated to that of the supply chain, with Whole Foods Market working actively to stay at the cutting edge of their movement for healthy and sustainable. According to Heather Orr (current employee) “the amount of social media promotion that has been going on here the last little while has been amazing – it has truly gotten everyone involved throughout all business departments. It’s been especially noticeable for bringing attention to our entire supply chain and how product goes from the ground to our store”. Tactically, this is happening in several key ways:

1) They are leveraging their buying power to ensure that farmers, suppliers, and all other pieces in their supply chain are all following sustainable practices (I.e. organic certifications, distribution requirements)

2) They are encouraging their suppliers and intermediaries to continue innovating and improving their practices (I.e. develop less energy intensive means for production or distribution)

3) They are constantly sourcing out new and more sustainable companies throughout their entire supply chain (I.e. partnering with new farmers or new technology companies that help improve their system)

4) They are investing in their entire supply chain in order to encourage even more sustainability and social consciousness (I.e. hybrid vehicles for distribution)

5) Use of social media to build trust, openness, and collaboration throughout their supply and with their customers

Overall the progress has been amazing, and as a result the company is experiencing unprecedented levels of growth! In fact, as a result of this process, Whole Foods Market is able to leverage their “sustainable and innovative” supply chain as a unique selling point and position it accordingly as a key marketing tactic.

Below is a graphic representing who the customers of Whole Foods Markets actually are. Information like this has helped them further understand their position in peoples lives and what the customers actually want and how best to relate to them.

Whole Foods Graph


One Whole Foods Market location even took customer recommendations one step further. After some customers showed a desire for relaxing music in the store, the Huntington Beach location decided to make a playlist of some soft background music and made it available on SoundCloud for their customers. Have a listen to this clip below:


Key Lessons 

  • Authentic incorporation of customer ideas and input can work as a key element in ensuring optimal supply chain management
  • Even in seemingly traditional industries like grocery retail, there is still massive opportunity for innovation throughout the entire supply chain process
  • Social media can be used as a key link between the customer, company, and the supply chain – ultimately turning a company’s supply chain management practices into a key selling point and differentiation tactic

For more information on what the company is doing, and what programs, initiatives, and charities they are involved with – visit this link for a detailed description.

Thanks for reading! Any comments, opinions, or thoughts? I’d love to hear them!



General Website: Whole Foods Market

Wikipedia Article: Whole Foods Market 

Fortune Magazine: Social Media Superstars 2014

Brands With Fans: How Whole Foods Market Uses Social Customer Service to Deliver Value

E-consultancy.com: How Whole Foods Market Uses Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ 

Submitted By: Jeff Baldwin

Author Contact Information: j.baldwin@queensu.ca

If you have any concerns regarding the accuracy or information posted on this site, please forward them to myself, Jeff Baldwin.