No one’s ever accused Whole Foods of not being health-conscious, but a federal application for a new slogan is tacking the organic grocery chain in a very Hamlet-y, “lady doth protest too much” direction. After losing both cachet and market share in the past year, the company now wants permission to use “World’s Healthiest Grocery Store” as its slogan. Besides being pretty charitable about its wholesomeness, that’s also a very kind description of Whole Foods’ scale — it only has stores in the U.S., Canada, and England.
What’s more, Whole Foods actually owns “America’s Healthiest Grocery Store” already, a phrase it won after a protracted fight with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office but has yet to put to any real use. The patent office’s argument was that the tagline was too laudatory in nature — basically, that the Feds generally frown on a slogan that just arbitrarily declares your company is the best at something. (For instance, Dunkin’ Donuts tried adopting “Best Coffee in America” in 2012; once their laughter subsided, the patent office people replied that, alas, this “mere puffery” couldn’t function as a trademark.) Still, Whole Foods didn’t give in, and it countered that its phrase was more than empty description because it conveyed a variety of attributes: the chain’s “strong financial condition,” its “extensive offering of products,” its “clean and sanitary conditions,” even its “large size.”
Amazingly, this logic prevailed, but it’s not clear the Feds will grant Whole Foods an upgraded version that applies the superlative globally. The company should have its answer in a couple of weeks.