Whole Foods CEO: Target Women, Foodies

October 24, 2012

Targeting female consumers will be increasingly important as women become a more dominant societal force, said Whole Foods Market CEO and co-founder John Mackey, speaking earlier this month in Chicago at the two-day Taste Tomorrow conference on consumer trends. The conference was sponsored by Puratos, a Belgium-based supplier of specialty ingredients.

Women currently account for 60% of college undergraduates and 70% of graduate students, Mackey observed. “All of the professions are going to be dominated by women in the 21st century,” he said, noting that women already are responsible for 70% of new business start-ups. He advised those positioning products and marketing efforts to keep in mind that women are relationship-focused and to shape messages accordingly. Mackey said women drove the success of the Tap Room bars Whole Foods has opened in 75 of its stores. Women like the concept of a bar within a supermarket, he said, because it is a safe, comfortable environment.

Mackey noted that today’s consumers crave authenticity and transparency. “They want to know everything about their food. Every product you sell has a story, and your success in the marketplace is going to be determined by your ability to tell that story.” In addition, Mackey said that “people are more and more food-oriented. If you’re in the business, and you don’t understand the foodie consumer, you’re going to be left behind.”

The Whole Foods CEO predicted that the need for U.S. consumers to get healthier and reduce healthcare costs may drive a movement toward healthier eating. “Our consciousness is rapidly evolving … [Consumers are becoming] more intelligent, better educated, environmentally aware, more ethical, and with more feminine values.” The companies that keep these perspectives in mind will be the ones that succeed, he emphasized. 

Taste Tomorrow website