PROLOGUE: The Tipping Point
It’s 1996, and Whole Foods Market, Fresh Fields and Wild Oats are waging a battle for customers, market share, and the soul of the natural foods industry.
CHAPTER 1: The Milkman or the Cow
In our grandparents’ era, virtually all food was natural. But then, in the blink of an eye, our food production system changed, abetted by the development and proliferation of DDT and other pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and food additives.
CHAPTER 2: A Few Gnarly Pieces of Fruit
Fueled by the convulsive social change of the 1960s, the “health foods” industry slowly began to emerge as an alternative to the pervasive new world of mass-produced, highly processed, “plastic” food.
CHAPTER 3: The Rise of the High-Minded Idealists
Ironically, the counterculture movement wound up producing some of the country’s most successful and progressive capitalists. They started off wanting to save the world, with no particular blueprints for how to do so; but they ended up blazing their way through the entrepreneurial wilderness.
CHAPTER 4: The Boulder Mafia
Throughout the country, provincial pockets of activity began to develop – no more so than in Boulder, Colorado, which became the crucible of development for the natural foods industry, attracting people like Mark Retzloff, Hass Hassan, Barney Feinblum and Steve Demos.
CHAPTER 5: Spontaneous Combustion
After years of struggle on the fringes of society and business, the natural foods industry finally exploded on the scene in the 1980s, armed with a revolutionary mission, the likes of which had seldom been seen in American business.
CHAPTER 6: Land of Opportunism
With an infusion of capital and important shifts in consumer attitudes, the industry began to attract a new breed of entrepreneur, whose experience and motivation were different than those of the generation that had preceded them. Enter Mike Gilliland of Wild Oats and Mark Ordan of Fresh Fields.
CHAPTER 7: Cult of Competition
Whole Foods cofounder John Mackey emerged as one of the most visionary and innovative business leaders of the modern era – and one of its fiercest competitors. In the battle for industry supremacy, it was game on.
CHAPTER 8: Dueling Business Models
As the turn of the century approached, idealism would no longer be enough to sustain the industry’s momentum. A new generation of entrepreneurs laid out bold, sophisticated, and often wildly contrasting business models – including those of Odwalla and Fresh Samantha, Horizon and Organic Valley, and Frookies and Newman’s Own Organics.
CHAPTER 9: From Co-Op to Cooptation to Clout
The unprecedented growth of natural foods led to a significant amount of co-optation by mainstream food retailers and manufacturers, and to the emergence of a new era of triple-bottom-line thinking in which the industry has begun to exert enormous influence on the way that business – any business – is conducted.
Their pioneering days are over, but the natural prophets live on.