Health Food Craze Driving Whole Foods Co-Op Sales
Take a walk inside Whole Foods Co-Op on West 26th St. in Erie and you'll be met with an aroma of freshly cooked foods, and the sight of all kinds of natural and organic products.
"We offer a little bit of everything. None of our foods have artificial colors, preservatives. No artificial flavors. We carry meat in our frozen section. Grass fed local and some organic. None of the meat has antibiotics, hormones. All of our produce is organic, certified by the USDA or grown locally using organic standards," said general manager Care Kerlin.
The store started out in 1978 with a much smaller selection. It was called the Food Basket, and they only sold ethic, Hispanic foods.
Now you can pretty much find it all; Supplements, health and beauty, even some fresh peanut butter.
But the ownership of the co-op is unlike most grocery stores.
"We are owned by a little over 5,200 people. They're everything from college students, to families with children, to the elderly," said Kerlin.
"Anyone can walk in and become an owner at any time. It's a $100 fee and it's just a one time fee. You basically get a piece of stock and everyone has an equal share. So there's no one that has a higher level of stock than anyone else," said employee Amy Seley.
Of course you can go to any grocery store to buy food but what they say they do better at the Co-Op is offer a much better selection of healthy foods and customer service.
"Being a small place we're really able to spend a lot of one on one time with our customers. There are a lot of people that come in with dietary needs and we're able to talk about that with them very intelligently and get them the information that they're seeking. With a growing national awareness of eating healthy foods and humane animal treatment, the Whole Foods Co-Op is reaping the benefits when it comes to sales," said Seley.
They're now doing around $3.7 million in sales every year.
"Incredibly good. We're in double digit sales growth right now. Our cafe alone is in over 40 percent sales growth over last year," said Kerlin.
Business is so good even, they're up to around 50 employees, and they're planning to open a community center in the near future.