Sometimes, a brand can get hit with a controversy that they didn’t even know they were involved with. Surely, that must be what Whole Foods is thinking.
Usually involved with issues surrounding food and the prices at their shops, it’s likely they didn’t have a crisis plan in place for the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, which made it OK for employers to determine whether or not to offer contraception coverage. The company itself has no plans of discontinuing the coverage. However, one of the brands they carry, Eden Foods, is trying to opt out of the coverage. And now there’s a petition against Whole Foods with 12,500 names, demanding that they stop selling Eden Foods products. According to The Daily Beast, the company is one of 82 trying to discontinue the coverage.
“While individual-level boycotting of Eden Foods may not have much of an impact, telling Whole Foods to stop carrying Eden Foods’ products in their stores around the nation should have a much bigger effect. Let’s seek out the best messenger to send this message to Eden Foods- and in this case, Whole Foods seems like the perfect fit,” reads the petition.
We can all just imagine the looks on faces of the Whole Foods publicists when they saw this.
Whole Foods carries 2,000 Eden Foods products, so clearly, they have a vested business interest in maintaining a relationship with the company. At the same time, many women who are Whole Foods shoppers are opposed to this Supreme Court decision.
The owners of Eden Foods are Catholic and, according to The Daily Beast, they don’t just want to stop covering some contraception. They want to stop covering all of it. This is exactly what Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, writing for the minority side, feared would happen.
Whole Foods sent the following statement to The Daily Beast:
We really do appreciate everyone who has reached out to us to share their feelings about Eden Foods. When reviewing products for our shelves, our primary consideration is whether the product’s ingredients meet our Quality Standards. We recognize and respect that customers may have their own personal criteria for buying or not buying a product, and it’s every shoppers’ right to vote with their dollars on that basis. We hope that if people have feedback for Eden Foods, they share it with them directly.
That’s one way to avoid the issue. And they do have a point. They can’t take responsibility for the business practices of every company they work with.
However, Whole Foods is also a store that markets itself as being very principled. They care about the living conditions of the animals that produce the food they sell. They’re mindful about the impact on the environment. They have an underlying health and wellness message that comes through with their stance on the exclusion of various hormones and additives in the products they sell.
With that in mind, this neutral statement seems inadequate. If they wouldn’t do this to their workers, why would they tolerate it from another company?
Ultimately, shoppers might boycott Eden Foods even if they continue shopping at Whole Foods. But the PR team at Whole Foods is likely now looking into the whole issue a little more closely.