On Friday, the grocery industry awakened to the unexpected news that Amazon was buying Whole Foods in a deal valued at $13.4 billion.
Whole Foods, an eco-minded and health-conscious supermarket chain that focuses on natural and organic products, opened its first store in Austin, Texas, in 1980. It now has nearly 500 stores in North America and the U.K. Despite the merger, Amazon says Whole Foods will continue to operate under their own brand and will continue to source products “from trusted vendors and partners around the world.” John Mackey, the co-founder of Whole Foods and its current CEO, will remain in his role. The chain’s headquarters will also remain in Austin instead of being relocated to Seattle, Washington, where Amazon is based.
Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon, said, “Whole Foods Market has been satisfying, delighting and nourishing customers for nearly four decades. They’re doing an amazing job and we want that to continue.”
While the deal has been announced, it has not yet been approved. The approval, which has to be done by Whole Foods’ shareholders, is expected to be concluded in the latter part of 2017.
With its bid to buy Whole Foods, Amazon is probably looking to expand its reach into brick-and-mortar retail, a sector it has been experimenting in lately with Amazon Go, Fresh Pickup, and in-person bookstore locations in select states. With Whole Foods, Amazon now has access to hundreds of upscale, prime-location distribution nodes for almost everything it needs. It is unclear, however, whether Amazon will include Whole Foods in its same-day delivery and drone service plans.