Three days prior to the blockbuster announcement that Amazon would acquire Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, Matt Jimenez, the senior category leader for Whole Foods’ global grocery team took the stage at BevNET Live Summer 2017 and discussed recent changes to the company’s grocery management structure and buying processes. While it’s unknown if or how Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods will affect the new order, Jimenez stressed that the retailer’s prowess as an incubator of new brands must remain a key focus amid a competitive and evolving grocery landscape.
“We tend to be the retailer that incubates,” Jimenez said. “That’s not to say we always do the best job or create long-lasting sales and market, however, we definitely take the forefront when it comes to incubation, so we want to make sure that’s our focus going forward. But there are better practices in the industry that we can take advantage of and learn from.”
Jimenez outlined a new “hub and spoke” model for Whole Foods’ grocery division, one that stressed consistent national assortment, management systems and tools while enabling regional autonomy among local buyers and decision makers. The goal is “to drive consistency across the board,” he said, yet still rely on its local foragers to identify innovative concepts and brands.
Whole Foods is also leaning more heavily on strategic data provided by market research firms in an effort to “pay better attention to what our customers are telling us.” Focusing on “insights, facts and data is going to be the key starting point,” Jimenez said. Indeed, in the wake of the Whole Foods buyout, experts speculated that it was likely Amazon’s expertise in collecting and collating consumer data would help to augment Whole Foods’ continued efforts to better understand its customers.
Watch this video, which includes Jimenez’ complete presentation and a question and answer session, for much more on Whole Foods’ strategic plans for grocery — and draw you own possible insights on synergies with Amazon.