Whole Foods Market is switching to a “hybrid” buying model, in which some control is moving from local buyers to category managers at the company headquarters. National brands will deal with national category managers, while local brands will still work with local buyers, but they will be guided by the category manager, rather than making fully autonomous decisions as they previously did. The category managers will ultimately decide what products end up on the shelves and how they are promoted.
The chain noted that while it needed to move to a new model to compete with other stores such as Target that are expanding their natural and organic offerings, it could not completely centralize buying because it wants to remain an incubator of local trends and brands.
However, some producers worry that local brands will have a tougher time getting into stores. Zach DeAngelo, the former COO of Little Duck Organics, believes the chain is looking to streamline its operations to save costs, which will result in fewer local brands.