How Amazon Ruined Whole Foods (Or Maybe Not)

I was a happy Whole Foods shopper until recently.

Exterior of a Whole Foods store
(Image credit: Getty Images)

I was a happy Whole Foods shopper until recently. I know I usually paid a premium, but I found their fruit crisper than the produce I picked through at other supermarkets, and their fresh salmon worth the cost over frozen fillets I could buy elsewhere. Plus, I often felt like I could offset some of the expense by zeroing in on Whole Foods' reasonably priced 365 Everyday Value house brand.

But now that Amazon owns the grocery chain and is aiming many of its discounts and deals exclusively at Prime members, some of the tricks to shopping at Whole Foods without going broke are no longer available. You see, I was a Whole Foods shopper but not an Amazon Prime member, which puts me in the minority. Magid, a strategy and research company, estimated that 61% of Whole Foods customers were also Prime members a little over a year ago, before the acquisition. Today, that number hovers between 75% and 80%, says Matt Sargent, Magid's senior vice-president of retail.

Without question, Amazon has changed how we shop at Whole Foods—for the worse, perhaps, but also for the better. "In a way, Amazon bought a broken business," says Elley Symmes, a supermarket industry analyst at Kantar Retail. "Organic and natural products have moved mainstream, and people are no longer willing to pay a premium."

Decide for yourself if Amazon is ruining Whole Foods or ultimately enhancing the experience for a new wave of shoppers.

Miriam Cross
Associate Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance
Miriam lived in Toronto, Canada, before joining Kiplinger's Personal Finance in November 2012. Prior to that, she freelanced as a fact-checker for several Canadian publications, including Reader's Digest Canada, Style at Home and Air Canada's enRoute. She received a BA from the University of Toronto with a major in English literature and completed a certificate in Magazine and Web Publishing at Ryerson University.