Can Whole Foods Expand from Natural Foods to Natural Spas?

Whole Foods, the grocery store that built a nationwide brand focused on encouraging a healthy, organic and sustainable food habit, wants to extend its healthy lifestyle brand into the world of health resorts. The plan is to open a spa near their headquarters in Austin, Texas within three years.

"We have the perfect vehicle for this," says Whole Foods co-founder John Mackey to USA Today. "Think of it as a center where people would go for a day, a weekend or a week for healthy lifestyle education."

The focus of the resort would be a place where guests could stay and learn about a healthier lifestyle. USA Today reports that the company is negotiating for real estate and an organization to operate the hotel. Whole Foods would presumably lend their name, and oversee the theme and quality of the experience.

Whole Foods has built its reputation, and a loyal brand following among the growing population of Generation Y. The company now operates 346 stores.

A health resort is a stretch outside the world of groceries, but is based in the core values of the company of offering healthier lifestyle options. Whole Foods has tried brand extensions before, notably the five education-focused Wellness Clubs it tested, but failed to take off.

Reports are that the health resort idea came from an in-house program to improve eating and lifestyle habits among Whole Foods employees: "I've seen it improve the lives of hundreds of our team members," Mackey is quoted as saying.

Whole Foods has clearly established itself as a brand centered around a healthy lifestyle—from food stuffs to products like vitamins, and other related products, it does seem like a health resort is a believable brand extension. Now what remains to be seen is how they translate a shopping experience into a resort. The devil will be in the details of maintaining the core values of the company—translating the Whole Foods grocery store customer experience into the world of hospitality.

Vegetables image courtesy of Shutterstock

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