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Whole Foods CEO Could Be Opening Plant-Based Cafés, Wellness Centers

·3 min read
Co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market John Mackey
Co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market John Mackey

Dustin Finkelstein / Getty Images for SXSW

Last September, Whole Foods Market's co-founder and CEO John Mackey wrote a letter announcing that he would be retiring from the company on September 1, 2022. "As a co-founder of Whole Foods, I've often explained my relationship to the company with a parent-child metaphor," he explained. "All parents reach a time when they must let go and trust that the values imparted will live on within their children.  That time has nearly come for me and for Whole Foods."

Mackey wrote that he had selected the company's Chief Operating Officer Jason Buechel to succeed him as CEO. "Next September, I'll be ready to pursue some of my other life passions," he added – and according to Bloomberg, those "other life passions" seem to include a new chain of combination plant-based restaurants and "medical wellness centers."

The outlet reports that Mackey is listed as one of the partners of the new venture, called Healthy America. The company's CEO is former Whole Foods exec Betsy Foster, and former Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb is also named as a partner.

According to a job posting, Mackey's new "child" — to use his own metaphor — is described as "an evidence-based lifestyle company, leading the convergence of culinary, healthcare, and wellness." The wellness centers will be "rooted in lifestyle medicine," while the restaurants will be "open to the public" and feature a plant-based menu.

"In our medical + wellness centers, we take a holistic approach to health and leverage the best of western and eastern medicine, alongside wellness, educational and fitness, and spa services to offer a best-in-class solution," the listing continues. "[Healthy America's} mission is to establish a new model of care which heals the whole person by focusing on prevention & reversal of disease through evidence-based healthcare utilizing nutrition and lifestyle, and aspires to elevate each individual's health to the most optimized state possible."

Vegconomist reports that the first Healthy America-owned location will likely open in southern California, and it could use the name Love Life. A website for Love Life simply says that "a new way to maximize overall health" is coming in 2023, and visitors to the site are encouraged to sign up for updates.

The language on the Healthy America job posting — especially the part about preventing illness through "nutrition and lifestyle" — sounds similar to some controversial comments that Mackey made last fall. During an appearance on Freakonomics Radio, he told host Stephen Dubner that the best health care was, uh, not needing health care in the first place.

"The best solution is to change the way people eat, the way they live, the lifestyle, and diet," he said. "There's no reason why people shouldn't be healthy and have a longer health span. A bunch of drugs is not going to solve the problem."

If that sounds like your (plant-based) jam, then you might want to sign up for those Love Life updates, or just wait to see where Healthy America's wellness centers land.