VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- Artificial fats, sweeteners, and colors: much of America's food supply is fake! It can be hard to weed-out all of those unhealthy foods, but there is a place that's trying to make it a little easier: Whole Foods Market.
Americans are becoming sick and tired of eating food that makes us sick and tired. That's why business is booming at Whole Foods, the nationwide grocer trying to set itself apart from the rest.
The selection at Whole Foods is huge, but the reason so many people shop here is because of what they will not find there.
First, there are no pesticides on the produce. It's organic. There are no trans fats, not even in the packaged foods or in the bakery. And there is no MSG in the soup, or anything else, for that matter.
And here's a biggie: not a trace of high fructose corn syrup anywhere in the store.
Food as Medicine
So why the bold departure from typical grocery store fare? According to founder John Mackey, it's simple.
"We want to help heal America," Mackey said.
In response, it appears America wants to be healed. Just ask some of Whole Foods customers in Virginia Beach, Va.
"We're overfed and undernourished and processed food is just not good for us," customer Robert Harvey said. Harvey recently decided to eat higher quality food than what he's been eating for most of his adult life.
Tomasina Hood said she likes the fact that she no longer has to scrutinize every label the way she used to at conventional grocery stores.
"Almost everything in here has under 10 ingredients in it, as opposed to a regular store that has 20 or 30 ingredients in it," she pointed out.
Heather Roemmich said she looks at food as medicine and has noticed favorable results in her family.
"I notice that when I'm eating healthier foods I feel a lot better," she said, smiling. "Especially as bad as the flu season has been this year, keeping up your immune system."
A Healthy Service
Mackey co-founded what would become Whole Foods Market in 1980 in his hometown of Austin, Texas. From that one, tiny store grew hundreds all across America, raking-in annual sales of $12 billion.
In that area, Mackey also took an unusual step: He stopped taking a salary and stock options years ago.
"I'd made enough money and I just really wanted to work for service," he explained. "I didn't want there to be the accusation that it was about some type of personal gain."
Whole Foods has made the list of Fortune's "Best Companies To Work For" list for 16 consecutive years. Among other things, employees get a 20 percent discount, 30 percent if they're healthy.
But consider this: what if instead of 30 years ago, John Mackey started Whole Foods today. Would it be the same success story?
Mackey himself said it's unlikely. He said today's attitude in Washington demonizes business, making it nearly impossible for start-up companies to get on their feet.
"There's just so much red tape. Taxes are higher -- corporate income tax in the United States is the highest in the entire world," he exclaimed.
In his new book, Conscious Capitalism, Mackey calls a free-market economy the key to prosperity. He says free-market capitalism is the only way to lift people out of poverty and provide a higher standard of living as well as a higher standard of self-worth for the greatest number of people.
He said the Obama administration is imposing the exact opposite type of economic environment.
"I'm very concerned," he said. "As little as just 13 years ago in the year 2000 we still ranked No. 3 on the economic freedom index. In 2012 we fell down to No. 18."
"So if you want to know why unemployment is at 7.9 percent, if you want to know why per capita income has declined over the last decade, you don't need to look any further than that statistic," he said.
Mackey said free-market capitalism would also fix healthcare but that Obamacare makes our current, ineffective, over-regulated healthcare system even worse.
"Nobody ever knows what anything costs when they go to the doctor," he pointed out. "That's not competition. That's not price transparency."
"I oftentimes joke that I wish I could run Whole Foods that way," he said. "Don't put any prices on anything we sell, and people get to the registers and say, 'How much is that going to cost?' And we say, 'Don't worry about it. You've got insurance. We'll just bill your insurance company.'"
"We could pretty much charge whatever we want. And that's what we have in our healthcare system in America," he said.
A Dying Breed?
So while Mackey works to provide good jobs for thousands of employees and good products for millions of customers, he's concerned he may be a dying breed.
Government intervention and the demonization of business is stifling the entrepreneurial spirit, which he says hurts everyone.
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