Depending on who you ask, Whole Foods is continuing to live up to the unfortunate nickname — “Whole Paycheck” — that cost-conscious shoppers bestowed on it. We’re referring in this case to a leaked email obtained by The Wall Street Journal, which showed that even with Amazon’s deep pockets, Whole Foods is apparently quietly rising prices on many items. The reason being — well, even Whole Foods is not immune to challenges facing its industry peers, with the leaked email noting that the grocer feels the need to keep hiking prices to cover rising costs.
The email viewed by the WSJ showed Whole Foods has raised prices this month on “dozens of items,” everything from Dr. Bronner’s soaps to Haagen-Dazs ice cream.
“A separate company email in December listed 550 additional price increases on products including crackers, olives and cookies,” the paper reported. “Whole Foods said in the December email that suppliers were charging more for those products due to inflation. The separate price increases this month followed the expiration of annual contracts to sell about 700 goods at low prices, Whole Foods said. Those contracts won’t be renewed, the chain said, and the increases add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars a week in additional revenue.”
The increases at Whole Foods related to inflation are as high as several dollars in some cases, according to a price list the Journal got its hands on that showed items like soaps, detergent and oils as getting hit with the biggest increases. On average, according to the list, the increase in price works out to about 66 cents.
As with any story like this, we should point out, the news doesn’t lend itself to simple categorization. Meaning, you’ll certainly be able to find many items where prices stay the same over time, some that have gone down, and plenty others with increases that range from pretty small to much higher. That’s kind of the point a Whole Foods spokesman tried to make in response to the WSJ’s reporting — that some of the grocer’s suppliers have been raising prices because of things like higher labor and materials costs.
Whole Foods eats some of those increases and passes on others. According to what that spokesman told the paper, “The chain stopped selling nearly half of 700 products with expiring contracts and instituted new deals on 100 more, she said. “Prices increased on about 50 of the 700 items, she said, adding that Whole Foods is now putting more items on sale, based on customer purchasing habits.
“We also offer hundreds to thousands of sale items daily and we’re continuing to lower prices for all shoppers and Prime members,” Whole Foods said on Monday, referring to Amazon’s subscription program.
Still, the increases won’t be well received by consumers turned off by the “Whole Paycheck” criticism. And, indeed, the chain tried to counter that image soon after it was bought by Amazon, with Amazon making a high-profile series of price reductions at the chain — an effort that Whole Foods says it’s still committed to.