Whole Foods International Expansion

Categories: Food


Whole Foods Market, a supermarket chain which emphasizes “natural” and organic products, centers their core competencies and values on product quality, pleasing customers, creating a positive environment for employees, education on healthy eating, prosperity, environmental stewardship and positive partnerships with suppliers. Listed as one of the world’s healthiest countries, Germany is an ideal location for Whole Foods to expand and share its experience. Initially, Whole Foods is going to expand to one location in Munich, Germany. Munich is the third largest city in Germany, which also offers surrounding farms to serve as suppliers for Whole Foods.

Germany has by far the greatest demand for organic products in the European Union and is second only to the USA at a global level. Recognizing the failures of other chain expansions to Germany, such as Wal-Mart, Whole Foods is going to utilize a transnational approach, which will address cost efficiency and local responsiveness. The following paper will give a methodological approach for the premise of Whole Foods entering the German Market, organizing Whole Foods’ business activities, and implementing a global marketing plan for Munich as the basis for Whole Foods entrance and expansion into the German market.

Phase 1 – Plan Global Business Enterprise
A. Identify Global Business Opportunity
1. Potential Market

Whole Foods is going to enter the German market beginning with its third largest city, Munich. According to the United States Census, Germany is the world’s fifth largest importer and exporter with $89.36 billion already through this July (United States Census, 2012). Organic foods in Germany have tripled between 1998 and 2008 and the country has faced a shortage of organic foods since 2007.

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Munich, Germany is surrounded by farms and agricultural producers to providing a supplier network for Whole Foods to meet the German market’s demand for organic food products.

2. American Organic Growth

Whole Foods was founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas by four founders: John Mackey, Renee Lawson Hardy, Craig Weller, and Mark Skiles. At the time there were less than a half dozen natural food markets in the United States (Whole Foods, 2012). From 1980 to 2012 they have developed into 310 stores primarily in the United States, and have recently added stores in Canada and the United Kingdom. The business model for Whole Foods is to support local farmers of natural and organic produce, meats, and poultry. According to their website, they “carry the finest natural and organic foods available, maintain the strictest quality standards in the industry, and have an unshakeable commitment to sustainable agriculture”.

3. Comparative Advantages

Germany is the largest market for organic products in the European Union with an annual turnover of more than 6 billion Euro, or 8 billion dollars, in 2010. Until 2008 the German organic market had been growing at near double digital rates annually, and in 2009, this growth leveled off as demand for organic products in conventional food stores decreased by several percentage points. Sales through specialized organic food stores are still increasing. The share of organic production in German agriculture is estimated to be about six percent of the total agricultural area and eight percent of the farms (export.gov, 2012).

B. International Competitors

1. Local Competition

Whole Foods has to compete with major player in the German food market. They are Alnatura, Metro Cash & Carry, Aldi, Lidl, and Viktualienmart. Of all competition, small vendor stands, butchers, and bakeries, pose as the largest competitor. It is deep-rooted in the German culture to purchase quality meat at a butcher, fresh baked bread at a bakery, and the fresh fruits and vegetables for the day at a produce store or stand. Very few Germans like to purchase food in bulk or even with one visit. 2. possible competitive advantages{Raw materials, technology, supply chain} 3. is the product adapted to the foreign market

C. Economic & Geographic Environment

1. Climate

Munich has a continental climate, and is determined by the effects of the Alps. In general summers are fairly warm and very wet, prone to thunderstorms, while winters are cold with light snowfalls. The Alps cause two unique deviations in the weather in Munich; south westerly winds crossing the Alps can bring warm “Föhn” condition and north-westerly winds blow from the mountains, however, weather conditions known as “Alpenstau” occur, bringing unseasonably low temperatures, rain and even snow (City of Munich, 2012). 2. Major imports/exports/natural resources of country

3. Gross Domestic Product

The GDP in Munich has grown from € 44 million in 1990 to € 70 million in 2011. Their GDP per capita is € 53.166 million. Munich continues to boast the highest purchasing power of all German cities. Purchasing power in the Bavarian capital is 30 percent above the national average and considerably higher than the figure for all other German cities. In 2010, average purchasing power per capita was € 24,900. Moreover, Munich is also surrounded by three of the five administrative districts with the highest purchasing power in Germany (City of Munich, Department of Labor, 2012).

D. Access the Cultural/Social Environment

1. Demographic Trends

There are currently 1.3 million people living in Munich, and their population consists of 23 percent immigrants (Official Website for the City of Munich, 2012). Munich is expected to reach a population of 1.5 million people by 2030 due to two trends: a rising birth rate, and also in inflow of young, well-educated adults.

2. Cultural Trends

Pertaining to food customs, Germans tend to purchase their food products on a daily basis, or several times a week. There is a large emphasis on home prepared meals, and take out and fast foods are scarce in Germany. German food markets will know and market the meats and produce to their consumers so consumers know where their foods are coming from, and which produce is in season.

3. Quality of Life

Munich is well known for its excellent cultural and leisure facilities and its high standard of living in general – witness the findings of a recent study by Mercer, a London-based management consultancy. The study examined political, economic, social and other aspects of 215 major cities worldwide. Munich was found to have the lowest crime rate of all large cities in Germany. A medley of cultural groups contributes to the city’s unique international flair. No wonder companies from every continent willingly move here.

Munich is home to the head offices of more international corporations than any other city in Germany. Moreover, having swiftly adapted to today’s multicultural society, the city offers people who work here an inspiring, creative environment. Traditional Bavarian openness and tolerance blend perfectly with cutting-edge technologies (City of Munich, Department of Labor, 2012).

4. Informal Trade Barriers

Although Germany does have a surplus of farms and a high demand for natural and organic produce and food products, there are threats for Whole Foods to overcome in the German market. Germans have an overall skepticism when it comes to American companies. Whole Foods has to scale down their normal 80,000 sq. ft. “super” market to adapt to German culture. There are also connotations in the German market surrounding the premise of “organic”, such as the organic label and its authenticity, taste of organic food, and also price of Whole Foods products.

E. Political/Legal Environment

1. Government and political developments

According to the US Department of State, Germany is a Federal republic founded in 1949, and on October 3, 1990, the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic unified in accordance with Article 23 of the F.R.G. Basic Law.

2. Formal Trade Barriers

Germany’s regulations and bureaucratic procedures can be a difficult hurdle for companies wishing to enter the market and require close attention by U.S. exporters. General Veterinary Requirements: In April 1997, the U.S. and the EU reached an equivalency agreement on an overall framework for recognizing each other’s veterinary inspection systems. The veterinary equivalency agreement covers more than USD 1.5 billion in U.S. animal product exports to the EU and an equal value of EU exports to the United States. The agreement preserved most pre-existing trade in products, such as pet food, dairy, and egg products. All beef and pork exported to Germany for human consumption must come from slaughterhouses, cutting plants, and cold stores approved for export to the EU. Since 1989, the EU has prohibited imports of beef from cattle treated with growth hormones. Soon after this ban went into effect, an agreement was reached between the United States and the EU that allows American producers of beef from animals not treated with hormones to export to the EU under certain conditions.

Phase 2-Organize Global Business Activities
A. Global Structure
1. Strategic Objective

The strategic objective of Whole Foods entering Munich emphasizes “natural” and organic products, centers their core competencies and values on product quality, pleasing customers, creating a positive environment for employees, education on healthy eating, prosperity, environmental stewardship and positive partnerships with suppliers.

2. Mode of Entry to Munich, Germany

Whole Foods is entering Munich as a wholly owned subsidiary of their US based parent company, taking the greenfield operational approach. The benefits of Whole Foods taking this approach are that they have complete control over operations, control over their proprietary software, and it allows for centralized global actions (Peng, 172).

3. Product Adaptation

Whole Foods will have a decentralized product base as compared to the US. Taking into consideration cultural barriers, Whole Foods has to adapt their suppliers and image according to the norms within the industry. The trade barriers also come into play in the decision to decentralize their product base, as it doesn’t make financial sense to carry all of the same suppliers as the US based locations. The product lines also have to be scaled to size of the smaller German locations.

4. Strategic Partners

Whole Foods has niche in the American market linked to its support of local farmers. In Germany this will prove to be a easy translation of their business activities overseas. Munich, Germany is surrounded by a rich agricultural presence. These local butchers, farmers, and fishers will be the supply network for Whole Foods in Germany. B. Financial Sources for Global Business Operations

1. The Euro

The benchmark interest rate in Germany was last reported at 0.75 percent (Trading Economics, 2012). Historically, from 1998 until 2012, Germany Interest Rate averaged 2.7 Percent reaching an all-time high of 4.8 Percent in October of 2000 and a record low of 0.8 Percent in July of 2012. Germany is a member of the Euro Area, an economic and monetary union of European Union member states that have adopted the euro (Trading Economics, 2012).. Currently, one Euro is equal to 1.29 us dollars (Foreign Exchange Rate, 2012). The Euro Area benchmark interest rate stands at 1.00 percent. The European Central Bank is the sole issuer of banknotes and bank reserves.

That means it has the monopoly supplier of the monetary base and can set the conditions at which banks borrow from the Central Bank. Therefore it can also influence the conditions at which banks trade with each other in the money market. In the short run, a change in money market interest rates induced by the Central Bank sets in motion a number of mechanisms and actions by economic agents. Ultimately the change will influence developments in economic variables such as output or prices (Trading Economics, 2012).

2. Start Up Costs

According to Reed Construction Data, it could take anywhere from 3.32 million to 4.1 million to build a 40 sq. foot supermarket (Reed Construction Data, 2012). In addition to these costs, Whole Foods has to incorporate the costs of inventory, staffing, equipment, licensing, marketing, legal, and accounting fees, totaling an 8.2 million dollar investment for the first German Whole Foods to enter Munich.

3. Funding

The balance sheet for Whole Foods has had a huge reduction in amount of debt they have carried due to a focused effort to not be so highly leveraged. In a statement by co-chair executive Walter Robb, Whole Foods has learned many lessons from the economic downturn. They have used the past few years to clean up their balance sheet and reinforce their core values and culture. Whole Foods is debt free with $645 million in free cash flow. In addition to the strength of Whole Foods’ balance sheet, they have also shown consistent growth year over year.

Given their financial strength, Whole Foods has two options for funding their expansion to Munich; use their liquid assets to fund the project, or seek financing from a German bank. Our suggestion for Whole Foods is to establish their relation with a German bank even though bank financing is not necessary. As Whole Foods seeks to further expand after Munich has been a successful venture, the German bank relationship is an important piece of their success.

C. Create Global Management Information Systems

D. Identify Human Resources for Business Activities

1. Staffing expertise

Whole Foods Germany will have an ethnocentric approach to staffing its Munich location. Utilizing the expertise of new talent that is familiar with the industry can give an advantage to Whole Foods as they enter the market.

E. Risk Management

1. Cultural Stereotypes
2. Political & Legal Risks. Corruption/business regs/tariffs
3. Supplier Network Risks

Phase 3 – Implement Global Marketing Plan
A. Product and Target Market Planning for Foreign Markets
1. Physical Benefits, Consumer Benefits and Competitive Advantages

Whole Foods Market operates as a wholesome supermarket and expects to benefit principally by utilizing an expansion strategy into Munich, Germany. The are several physical benefits of entering Munich, Germany. Munich has been acknowledged as the organic capital of Germany, based on its abundant market for natural food and organic products. Munich has a widespread market from which Whole Foods can access goods locally and support the community, such as Hofpfisterei, a large chain of organic bakery shops, Andechs, a thriving organic dairy and Hermannsdorfer Landwerkstetten, an organic farm complete with butchery, brewery and dairy. Additionally, Munich hosts 29 weekly markets, 13 farmer’s markers, 2 strictly organic farmer’s markets, 4 outdoor produce markets and 2 organic food box delivery services (Schafer, 2006).

Munich’s region has a population of about 2.5 million people. The surrounding areas of Munich have a green belt, where a large part of the land is used for agricultural purposes. The city of Munich has 11 farms. Of these, 6 are organic farms, making it one of the largest organic farming areas in Bavaria (Schafer, 2006). This provides a valuable market for Whole Foods Market, which is dedicated to the model of fresh, healthy, local foods. Whole Foods is devoted to supporting local products and the people who supply them (Whole Foods, 2012). The support of local farms will directly benefit the consumers of Munich by supplying the supermarket with the freshest and most diverse products, while remaining environmentally conscious by reducing the company’s carbon footprint.

Whole Foods will focus on the value (V), rarity (R), imitability (I), and organizational (O) features of its resources and capabilities in order to maintain a competitive advantage while entering Munich. Recognizing that only value-adding resources will advance its competitive advantage, Whole Foods has focused on expanding throughout multiple markets, totaling 310 locations, throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and now Germany (Whole Foods Market, 2012). Furthermore, Whole Foods will be utilizing various organic farms throughout Germany.

As of late 2011, there were 22,506 organic farms in Germany, covering 1,015,626 hectares of land organically in agreement with the EU legislation governing organic farming. They account for 7.5 % of all holdings, farming around 6.1 % of the total utilized agricultural area (Federal Ministry of Food, 2012). The accessibility of various farms provides Whole Foods with the capability to address any challenges that it many encounter with suppliers and varying consumer demands.

Whole Foods is recognized for its rare assets, which are highly intertwined in the company’s brand and operations. In 2012, the Ethisphere Institute unveiled its World’s Most Ethical Companies list, which Whole Foods was recognized for the fourth time. Whole Foods Market is acknowledged for being a company with a conscience. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, stated “Our core values are at the center of the business philosophy that drives Whole Foods Market’s unique culture, growth and success. That success comes from making sure all our stakeholders – team members, customers, suppliers, shareholders, our communities and the environment– are part of our vision” (Stagnito Media, 2012).

Given its intangible resources, Whole Foods will continue to be challenging to imitate upon entrance into Munich. The casual ambiguity throughout the organizational culture at Whole Foods will differentiate the supermarket from its competition. Ultimately, Whole Foods will ensure that its operations are properly organized. Given the supermarket’s operation as one entity expanding globally, Whole Foods will address cultural differences throughout its relationships (Peng, 2010). 2. Legal & Cultural Factors

Recognizing that the majority of products being offered at Whole Foods are promoted as organic, whether imported or obtained from a local farm, German laws must be abided by while operating in Munich. The Organic Farming Act monitors and inspects organic farming in Germany and organic products must obey the provisions under the food and feed law. All products that are promoted as organic products must agree to the inspection system and methods under the EU legislation presiding over organic farming. It is necessary for Whole Foods Munich to comply with the EU legislation and give consent to the inspection system. Whole Foods will be responsible for the associated inspection expenses (Federal Ministry of Food, 2012).

Based on Germany’s movement towards healthy eating, legal compliance should not be an issue with local producers, who are familiar with the regulations. Much of the culture in Germany emphasizes the importance of meals, which involves purchasing fresh food in smaller portions. This is complementary to Whole Foods Market’s distribution system which does not sell in bulk. Food in Germany has become more diverse and health conscious. Healthy eating has progressively developed throughout the country. In 2008, organic food sales totaled approximately 5.8 billion Euros. Germans are welcoming organic supermarkets because they present a combination of what is important to Germans, such as pleasure, accountability, lifestyle and a clear conscience (Kleis).

3. Product Life Cycle

The organic industry is now a division of the grocery market. The organic sub-market is continuing to grow; therefore, the organic industry life cycle is in the growing stage.

4. Branding and Target Markets

Whole Foods Munich will treat its products, branding and packaging as uniquely as its consumers in Munich. Whole Foods Munich will concentrate on supplying consumer favorites, contained in the Whole Foods Market’s specialized market brand packaging. The items that are custom packaged at Whole Foods, such as deli containers and bakery boxes, utilize a universal packaging program that celebrates the different regions and their unique local offerings, while maintaining the brand’s mission. In addition to customization, Whole Foods will also cater to the environment while operating in Munich. Whole Foods Munich will utilize post-consumer recycled (PCR) content bottles for all of its store-brand products. The supermarket is dedicated to reducing and recycling waste on all levels of business (Kaye, 2010).

Given the company’s emphasis on local branding and environmental awareness, Whole Foods has strong potential to capture a healthy target market while operating in Munich. The ideal target market would encompass consumers from college-age to senior citizens that value their health and well being. The factor of affordability also comes into play while analyzing the target market. Consumers need some disposable income in order to pay the higher costs associated with organic goods. Munich is Germany’s second largest employment hub, with over 1.6 million employed citizens. Furthermore, Munich’s unemployment rate has been the lowest for numerous years in comparison to Germany’s other major cities (Portal München, 2012). In addition to a favorable employment rate, Munich hosts the Oktoberfest celebration, which is the most popular festival in Munich. This festival serves beer that has been brewed within city limits, and will be sold throughout Whole Foods Munich. These are critical factors that will contribute towards the expansion of Whole Foods.

B. Design Global Distribution Strategy
1. Accessibility and Infrastructure

Transportation of goods is feasible throughout Munich, which is a valuable operating factor for the efficient operations of Whole Foods. Goods can be transported via road, rail, sea and air. The expansion of Whole Foods Market into Munich, Germany will be the supermarket’s 12th geographic region that it operates in. As Whole Foods acquires economies of scale, distribution becomes a bigger concern. Each geographic region carries its own president and manages its individual store network. Ultimately, if Whole Foods continues to expand, it may need a more centralized strategy. Currently, everything from product supply to transportation is local.

They do not have a professional supply chain. Ultimately, Whole Foods has little pressure to be efficient because of its premium prices. Mackey, Whole Foods CEO, expresses that the store is not supply chain-driven. Mackey states “Wal-Mart so much dominates the mind-set in retail. Not everyone is concerned with getting mediocre food at the lowest price (Bloomberg Businessweek, 2005).”

2. Distribution Barriers

Germany follows the EU rules that control all European Union countries. Despite its fairly liberal foreign trade policy, farm products hold various restrictions in compliance with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which is the application of fees on imports and exports of farm products, focused on supporting the growth of agriculture within the EU. In compliance with Whole Foods Market’s core value of well-being, the EU requires all products that encounter Genetically Modified Organisms to be labeled specifically on its packaging. Additionally, beef cattle raised on hormones is prohibited to import (Alibaba, 2012). Whole Foods Munich supports the CAP and will be a major contributor to its success by utilizing local farmers.

3. International Taxes and Duties

The EU is a single market, without any customs barriers, which guarantees the free flow of goods. Given that trade within the EU is totally free from customs duties, Whole Foods Munich should establish relationships with suppliers in the EU. If a supplier is located outside of the EU, customs duties are calculated ad valorem, based on the value of the goods, in agreement with the Common Customs Tariff (CCT). Additionally, various bilateral and multilateral agreements have been signed by the EU, to facilitate detailed customs duties with Australia, Canada, United States, Mexico and South Korea (Alibaba, 2012).

4. Accessibility – Organic/Natural Supermarket Channel

Whole Foods Munich will be operating through the premium organic/natural supermarket distribution channel. All Whole Foods stores acquire items directly from local businesses located in the metropolitan area as well as from the company headquarters in Austin, TX and international distribution channels. Ultimately, Whole Foods’ headquarters in Austin transmits direction, procedure policies and commands to each store. Since goods may be transported to Whole Foods Munich via the aforementioned modes of transportation, the goal is to obtain products in an efficient manner, which directly affects product pricing.

C. Global Promotion Strategy

1. Creating Awareness throughout Metropolitan Munich

In accordance with the majority of German ventures, Whole Foods Munich will initially utilize direct marketing to promote its supermarket, mostly via e-mail & internet marketing and direct mail. Advertisements will be vibrant with images of fresh food, produce and beverages while sharing the
stories of local farmers. While advertising in Germany, it is critical to address legal considerations. EU legislation regulates marketing and sales to private consumers. Specifically, Whole Foods Munich will have to focus on the clarity of their advertising campaigns and follow regulations pertaining to consumer data. The marketing department should refer to the National Country Commercial Guides and communicate with the Commercial Service at the U.S. Mission to the European Union for more specific guidance (Export.gov, 2012).

In addition to direct marketing, Whole Foods Munich will also utilize local newspapers and magazines to create brand awareness throughout the region. The advertisements will apply the pull marketing strategy, which aims to gain the interest of the consumer. For instance, print advertisements will share the beginning of a farmer’s journey, while encouraging the consumer to shop at Whole Foods Munich to find out the rest. Consumers that bring in the advertisement and complete the farmer’s journey in the allotted space will be given an introductory discount of 10% off of their total order.

Whole Foods Munich will not only offer high quality food and beverages, but it will also provide consumers with a unique shopping experience. By taking a transnational approach, Whole Foods Munich will address local responsiveness by offering all of the local consumer favorites. Local produce will be presented throughout the store by posting information next to displays that tells where the produce was grown, how, and by whom, highlighted with stories about the farmers who grew the food. In unity with all Whole Foods Market locations, Whole Foods Munich will promote local food by hosting farmers markets in the parking lots of its store at least once a month to emphasize the company’s commitment to local food (USDA, 2009).

D. Select International Pricing Strategy

1. Implementing Value Pricing

Whole Foods Market has been transitioning its pricing strategy from high pricing to value pricing over the past year. Due to rigorous cost-control actions, effective inventory management and improved store-level performance, the supermarket’s earnings growth is rising. This has allowed for Whole Foods to renovate its pricing strategy and focus more on value, while sustaining strong margins. Overall, the supermarket’s gross margin has been in the range of 34% to 35% over the past 5 years (Zacks, 2012). This success will allow for Whole Foods Munich to offer greater promotions, which is something that is fairly new to the company.

2. Economic Factors

Pricing decisions for Whole Foods Munich will be largely reliant upon inflation, natural disasters and inclement weather. Inherently, bad weather drives up the costs for farms; therefore, the incurred costs are relayed to the cost of goods, and ultimately to the price that the consumer will have to pay. If the weather is difficult throughout Germany, a higher amount of goods will have to be imported, which will involve higher taxes and more extensive regulations if being imported from outside the EU.

3. Demand Analysis

Recognizing the growing demand for organic products, Whole Foods Munich has the option to charge premium prices for particular goods. The European organic consumer market is considered the largest in the world, and Germany is considered the highest in the EU.

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invest_in_munich/Munich__means__business/Standortinfos_english.html Reed Construction Consulting. (2012). Supermarket Construction Costs. Retrieved October 9, 2012 from http://www.reedconstructiondata.com/rsmeans/models/supermarket/ Schafer, M. (2006). The sustainable food and agricultural movement in Munich, Germany. Retrieved on October 5, 2012, from http://orgprints.org/7528/ Stagnito Media. (2012, March 16). Whole Foods, Wegmans named to ‘World’s Most Ethical’ list. Retrieved on October 1, 2012, from http://www.gourmetretailer.com/top-story-awards-whole_foods__wegmans_named_to__world_s_most_ethical__list-10447.html Trading Economics. (2012). Retrieved October 9, 2012 from http://www.tradingeconomics.com/germany/interest-rate United States Census. (2012, July). Top Ten Countries with which the US Trades. Retrieved 10/2/2012 from: http://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/top/dst/2012/07/balance.html USDA.

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Whole Foods International Expansion. (2016, Oct 30). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/whole-foods-international-expansion-essay

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