Management Innovation at Whole Foods Market

To be honest: looking at the food retailing industry in general at a first glance, one would hardly imagine much of innovation. Usually it is high-tech companies such as Apple or Google that lead the attribute “Most Innovative”.

Nonetheless, Whole Foods Market, an American retailer, impressively proves that innovation, especially strategic and management innovation can be successfully implemented in any company of any industry:

“Founded in 1980 as one small store in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market® is now the world’s leading retailer of natural and organic foods, with more than 270 stores in North America and the United Kingdom. To date Whole Foods Market remains uniquely mission driven: We’re highly selective about what we sell, dedicated to stringent Quality Standards, and committed to sustainable agriculture.

We believe in a virtuous circle entwining the food chain, human beings and Mother Earth: each is reliant upon the others through a beautiful and delicate symbiosis.” (


What we find innovative about Whole Foods Market? The management’s lateral and out of the box style of organising and running the business.

Curious about their unique way to manage the stores – i.e. teams are fully responsible and autonomous to decide about their area, for example the seafood department in the store – I decided to check out one of their view markets in Europe, the one on High Street Kensington in London.

What I found was amazing – a gigantic super market for organic food and specialities, most aesthetically presented in a tremendous variety and appealing environment. I had the choice to pick out of ten (!) different types of tomatoes, some of them I have never seen before in my life, or more than 100 different types of cheese from seven continents.

Whole Foods Market is well known for it’s unique management innovation approach and has been highly successful by doing so – a visit to one of their stores will make this clear to you immediately and should get you to thinking about the potentials of management innovation in your company.

by Bernhard Hoetzl


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