18 Facts About Whole Foods You’ll Find Interesting To Know

Image via Flickr/ Ines Hegedus-Garcia

Ah, the phenomenon that is Whole Foods. No one can quite explain what it is about the famous supermarket chain that makes normal shoppers into grocery groupies, but it’s undeniable that there is, indeed, a special charm there. Almost as ubiquitous as Starbucks, Whole Foods has grown quite the following amongst the natural and organic food-loving community in the last 34 years — so much so that Whole Foods shoppers are sometimes grouped as a cult. Love it or hate it, this grocery store isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so here are 18 facts about Whole Foods you’ll find interesting to know:

1. Starting out with humble beginnings in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market is now the largest supermarket retailer of natural and organic food products in the world.

2. If you had the power of teleportation, you could visit a different Whole Foods Market store every single day of the year — and into the next year. There are 385 Whole Foods locations around America, Canada and the U.K.

3. Whole Foods Market has made FORTUNE’s “100 Best Companies to Work for” list for 17 consecutive years.

4. Whole Foods founders, John Mackey and Rene Lawson, lived at the flagship store in Austin for a while after opening it, because they got kicked out of their apartment for storing food products in it. They bathed using the dishwasher shower hose.

5. After suffering from Austin’s worst flood in 70 years, the flagship Whole Foods store lost all of its inventory on Memorial Day, 1981, and suffered $40,000 in losses. The store had no insurance.

6. Besides generous benefits, Whole Foods has a policy that allows any of its team members access to the company’s financial books, including the annual individual compensation report.

7. Whole Foods makes it a mission to give back, and the company periodically holds “Community Giving Days” during which 5 percent of stores’ net sales are donated to local or regional organizations.

8. The company has an “Unacceptable Ingredients for Food” list that outlines 80 things that are not allowed in any of the food it carries.

9. New Orleans was home to the first Whole Foods store outside of Texas and sixth overall, opening in 1988.

10. The company isn’t just concerned about organic foods; Whole Foods opened its own gluten-free bake house in Raleigh, N.C. in 2004.

11. They love animals. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) named Whole Foods Market the “Best Animal-Friendly Retailer” in its second annual Proggy Awards, which recognize animal-friendly progress.

12. The Austin flagship Whole Foods is unsurprisingly the largest of all the locations at 80,000 square feet. It has a 25,000-square-foot roof garden, a plaza with 200 shaded seats, space for entertainers, a playscape, a flowing stream and native landscaping — oh and an ice skating rink on the roof.

13. In 2012 Whole Foods Market installed more than 70 electric vehicle charging stations in 27 metros across the U.S. to provide the latest eco-technology for customers. Unsurprisingly the company made Newsweek’s top 10 list of “Greenest Retail Companies in the U.S.”

14. Detroit Mayor Dave Bling called the store’s opening in the troubled city a “game changer.”

15. The Edgewater, Ill. location outside of Chicago opening later this month was built to accommodate two or three “hangouts,” which could include a tap room or wine bar so people would “linger longer” in the store.

16. The original name of the store was “SaferWay” — because, you know, that was originally how Whole Foods founders wanted to one-up Safeway with their awesomeness.

17. Animal products have to meet a strict set of regulations to make it onto Whole Foods Market shelves, including: no antibiotics, no hormones, no animal by-product ingredients, animals traceability to farms, pasture-based farming (animals can have only very limited time in barns), no castration or tail docking allowed, natural weaning, and animals must be in a four-hour proximity to the slaughter facilities.

18. Forget about dairy products, you can even buy vegan cane sugar at Whole Foods.