Anyone with an interest in natural foods knows the name Whole Foods. And anyone with a pair of eyes knows the Whole Foods logo. The distinctive green and white logo is as much a part of the brand identity as agave syrup and lentil chips, and save a few minor alterations, it’s survived pretty much intact since the first Whole Foods store opened its doors in 1980 as one of the leading supermarkets. But what’s its history? And what does it all mean anyway? Keep reading to find out.
The History of Whole Foods Market
Before we delve too deeply into the whys and wherefores of the logo, a quick potted history of the brand might be in order. Today, Whole Foods is one of the biggest retailers of natural and organic foods in the world. With the backing of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos behind it, it’s set to get even bigger over the coming decade. But when its story began back in 1978, it was little more than a local vegetarian natural foods store. Started by friends John Mackey and Renee Lawson, the store originally ran under the name Safeway. Two years later, Mackey and Lawson decided to extend the concept further by partnering up with Craig Weller and Mark Skiles to launch the first Whole Foods Market in Austin. Covering a sizeable 10,500 square feet and with 19 staff on its payroll, the store was mammoth compared to most other health food stores of the day and quickly developed a loyal following.
By 1984, the foursome of Mackey, Lawson, Weller and Skiles had decided Austin was too small for their ambitions: stores in Houston and Dallas soon followed, and by the 1990s, there seemed to be a Whole Foods store on almost every corner (something that was no doubt helped by the brand buying up almost every other viable health food store in operation, including Wellspring Grocery in North Carolina in 1991, Bread & Circus in Massachusetts and Rhode Island in 1992, Mrs. Gooch’s in southern California in 1993, Fresh Fields in northeastern and mid-Atlantic states and Illinois in 1996, Bread of Life in Florida in 1997, Merchant of Vino in Michigan in 1997, and Harry’s Farmers Market in Georgia in 2001). By the 2000s, it had become an international operation, with stores across both Canada and the UK. After decades of major gains, the story of Whole Foods took a new turn in 2017 when Amazon purchased the company for a heart-stopping $13.7 Billion. Since then, a few minor changes have come about, including the phasing out of the brand’s budget-friendly offspring, 365 – a move that as Forbes points out, is illustrative of Amazon’s brand business plan to ensure Whole Foods Market is seen as a single source for organic, eco-conscious, ethically-sourced products.
The Logo – 1980 to 1916
History done and dusted, onto the logo. From its birth in 1980 to 2016, the Whole Foods Market brand logo remained unchanged. Consisting of a simple dark green and white color palette (intended, as 1000logos.net notes, to represent the dual mission statement of freshness and growth and reliability and success), the logo was sleek, stylish, and bold enough to get the job done, without being ostentatious in the process. Spaced over two levels with the word Market capitalized and set in a thick green underline, the logo had several distinctive features – not least the stylized letter ‘O’ in “Whole”, which was designed to mimic a fruit with a leaf. Despite its deceptively simple look, the logo did what all logos are intended to do – set the brand apart from others, while being instantly recognizable to its customers.
The Logo – 1916 to Today
Nothing stays the same forever. Having served the company well for 36 years, 2016 was the year the Whole Food brand logo got a shake-up. In fairness, it wasn’t exactly a huge shakeup, and even the brand’s most dedicated customers would be forgiven for not registering the chance. But whether anyone realized it or not, change it did. While the previous logo was notable for, well, not exactly being that notable, the new logo has a new confidence about it, a certain boldness that the old logo, for all its elegant sensibilities and simple stylishness, lacked. These days, the logo consists of a vibrant, light green circle punctuated by the words Whole Foods Market. The capitalization of the words remains, as does the fruity “O” at the center of “Whole”. The word “Market” is now integrated, appearing directly under the wordmark without the separation that we saw on the old logo (although that said, the two elements are still kept somewhat distinct by the font. While the “Whole Foods” wordmark utilizes a stylish serif typeface similar to Brighton Com Bold, “Market” is executed in a cleaner, more modern sans-serif typeface somewhat similar to Lawyer Gothic).
The 365 Logo
365 stores may now be history, but for a little while at least, the 365 logo was an integral part of the Whole Foods brand. Conceived as a multicolor label embossed with the "Everyday Value" tagline, the original logo was designed by Nancy Frame. As noted by themarketingsage.com, Frame designed the logo to include four boxes that each represented summer, fall, winter, and spring – a neat little idea that played on the idea of customers wanting to buy fresh, local products in season. Frame chose the casually elegant Cooper Light for the numerals 365, which worked to give the overall finish a light, fun feel reminiscent of the 365 line itself. Like the central brand’s logo, the 365 emblems didn’t stay immune to change forever: in January 2020, it underwent a significant change when the multicolor label was replaced with a black background. At the same time, the "Everyday Value" tagline was replaced with "Whole Foods Market”… something that may or may not have been connected with Whole Food's decision to convert all existing 365 stores into regular Whole Foods stores.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith