As further evidence that Whole Foods’ plan for beating budget grocery chains like Costco and Aldi is to become more like them, the organic grocer announced in an earnings call Wednesday that it will roll out a nationwide rewards program next year. The company’s been running tests for several years in Philly and since July in Dallas, and feels the program will be ready for prime time in 2017. Members will receive “a number of rewards,” among them 10 percent off their first purchase, a coupon good for 15 percent off any department, and product giveaways throughout the year. The more a customer buys, the more rewards they’ll “unlock,” although CEO John Mackey says that while freebies and other promos “are an integral part of our conversation,” Whole Foods is not interested in “participating in a race to the bottom.” Maybe not, but hey, he didn’t directly shoot down plans to offer double coupons or accept their competitors’ either.
The other big development from Wednesday’s call was new details on Whole Foods’ foray into meal kits. More “ready-made meal solutions” are on the horizon, Mackey told investors, and shoppers will be able to buy them in stores or have them “delivered to your door.” This comes in addition to a partnership that started last week with Purple Carrot, sort of a vegan Blue Apron. For its trial at a Massachusetts store, Whole Foods is selling Purple Carrot kits singly, rather than as part of a subscription service — which has proven to be a dismayingly tough business model for these start-ups to maintain.