Whole Foods Market Explores Opening Off-Site Kitchens

Whole Foods Market is evaluating the profitability of buying commercial kitchens that would make prepared meals for its food bars and refrigerated cases. It is a shift in strategy for Whole Foods Market, which closed its own kitchens decades ago and began outsourcing most food production to outside suppliers in order to cut costs, a frequent practice in the grocery industry. The company’s Senior Vice President, Jeff Turnas, says the company is constantly evaluating ways to produce its food – including opening its own facilities and working with third parties, as well as using in-store kitchens. Whole Foods Market may open its own kitchens or buy those of other companies to help it manage the quality of its multibillion-dollar prepared foods business.

The Austin-based grocer has developed its own team of food scientists to create recipes for ready-to-eat and prepared meals that vary by region and follow the company’s stringent quality standards. Prepared foods – such as pizza and soups – have traditionally been a draw for Whole Foods Market customers. The pandemic caused grocers to adjust their assortments, adding more prepackaged and heat-and-eat options. Whole Foods Market has increased its prepared-foods offerings in recent years through the use of outside suppliers, launching catering services, expanding its bakeries’ cake lineups, and selling meals online. According to Turnas, Whole Foods Market will expand its offerings of sushi, sheet cakes and juice bars in the next few months.