What will make Whole Foods Market different from the other national, regional and independent grocers that serve our region is the sheer amount of organic and natural foods under one roof.
From aloe, banana leaves, dulse flakes and sushi nori to cooked organic chicken and grind-your-own peanut butter, Whole Foods employees this week have been unloading boxes, setting up food stations and stocking items in the former Borders bookstore building at 4320 Grape Road.
The Mishawaka store will cater to vegetarians, vegans, and people with gluten-free or other special dietary needs, but it also aims to serve any consumer who wants to eat healthier. In fact, the store has gluten-free and GMO-free shopping lists available in customer service to guide your shopping.
"We're looking to add more healthy options to the community," says Clark Barnett, the store team leader. "We want to give people the opportunity to become healthier with knowledge about their food. I want more people to eat organic."
About 100 employees have been meeting in small groups the past few weeks to review sustainability rating systems and practices and to talk about labels and product choices. Workers are constantly educating shoppers about the products, Barnett says, so much time and effort goes into training.
"We'll have 15-minute sessions where team members learn something like the difference between a cage-free egg and an Omega-3 egg, so they can talk to customers about it," he says.
The sales floor comprises about 19,000 square feet.
About three-quarters of the produce department is organic, with "properly handled" products purchased from certified organic growers. International products are an exception, along with some conventionally grown items, Barnett says.
Behind produce, customers will find a long wall containing dozens of bulk products, including rice, beans, nuts, grains and oatmeal. Here, shoppers can buy some goji berries, which are often used as a health supplement, or a handful of plump Jacob's cattle beans.
About 20 percent of items sold in the meat department are organic (mainly chicken). Meats sold at Whole Foods do not have any added hormones or antibiotics. The frozen cases offer alternative proteins, Barnett says.
While passing the pasta sauces in the grocery area, Barnett points to the Whole Foods label called 365, among other labels that may not look familiar to shoppers who are used to conventional mainstream brands.
"We have everything a normal grocery store has. And we carry conventional and organic pasta sauces, but you won't find Ragu or Prego here," he says.
"But we carry Cheerios," he adds, "because it meets our quality standards."
To familiarize shoppers with its products, the store regularly will hold sampling events, says Mariah Fairweather, marketing specialist. Cooking demos and classes will be posted on the store's Facebook page.
Dairy cases and a cheese department, which features more than 65 cheeses, are located along the back of the store. The east wall contains the deli and bakery as well as hot and cold food stations and take-home meal options.
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Contact Heidi Prescott at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-235-6070. You can also talk retail at Facebook.com/thebasket and at Twitter.com/marketbasket. Hear her weekday reports at 6:52 a.m. on The WSBT Morning News with JT at WSBT-AM (960) and WSBT-FM (96.1).