mercredi 10 août 2011

Don't let the organic groceries and right-wing contempt for it fool you -- Whole Foods might as well be Winn-Dixie on this one

I never go to Whole Foods. It's ridiculously expensive, there isn't much organic stuff that I actually use that I can't get similarly at Trader Joe's, and the closest one that isn't populated by the insufferable spa wives of Wall Street bankers is eight miles away. Doesn't burning gas to get groceries with a crunchy granola reputation seem like missing the point? And apparently they don't treat their employees all that well. Besides, I have Fairway Market that's a five-minute drive -- a mega-market that's like the Katz's Deli of supermarkets -- great products, purveyed by an epically surly staff. You want organically-grown okra? Fairway has it. It also has the Great Wall of Hummus, the Isle of olive oil, where the perpetually hungry nosh on bread scraps dipped in aged extra virgin olive oil pressed from organically grown trees on an ancient hilltop in Tuscany, and the Monolith of Fresh Pasta. Sweet potato and arugula ravioli? They've got it. 25 kinds of olives in barrels? Yup. Noodle kugel by the pound? No problem. And yes, an entire organic produce department. Going to Fairway for the first time is kind of like Robin Williams in the coffee aisle in Moscow on the Hudson:

But I digress. This post is about Whole Foods, and why now there's another reason for us proud liberals to shun them:

Under pressure from right-wing bloggers who blindly associate Ramadan and Muslims with terrorism and burqas, Whole Foods has sent an email to its stores across the United States in which it specifically tells stores not to promote Ramadan this year.

Just last week, Whole Foods began its promotion of Saffron Road's line of halal products throughout the holiday, which ends on August 29, via writer Yvonne Maffei's blog, My Halal Kitchen. That promotion was waylaid by what seems like a very small amount of criticism, according to an internal email that the Houston Press obtained recently.

"It is probably best that we don't specifically call out or 'promote' Ramadan," reads a portion of that email. "We should not highlight Ramadan in signage in our stores as that could be considered 'Celebrating or promoting' Ramadan."

This is a significant departure from years past, when Whole Foods has promoted its halal items during Ramadan with small signs that displayed a crescent moon, the symbol of Islam. It's also a striking difference from the way that the famously tolerant grocery chain promotes other holidays, including signage and in-store promotions for Passover, Easter and Christmas.>

"We recently introduced a line of frozen products in Grocery that are Halal certified (meet Muslim dietary laws) called Saffron Road," continues the email. "With the introduction of this line company wide, and the beginning of Ramadan last week, we posted a product giveaway on the Whole Story blog (on July 31) to generate awareness and interest in the products. Some people have misinterpreted the blog post to mean we are celebrating or promoting Ramadan in our stores. The misinterpretation has generated some negative feedback from a small segment of vocal and angry consumers and bloggers."

Whole Foods has never had a problem promoting other holidays in the past.​This language represents a very different side of Whole Foods than the one it showed to the media when it released this statement on its halal products and Ramadan:

We're always looking for ways to expand our product mix and provide a wide variety of high-quality natural and organic foods for our diverse customer base. We celebrate the many food choices we offer our shoppers throughout the year that satisfy a variety of lifestyles and dietary preferences. Many of our shoppers requested that we carry more halal offerings to meet their needs and we listened. We recently launched frozen entrees from Saffron Road and we are highlighting these new products that are not just halal certified, but that also meet our high quality standards. Just like the other ethnic and special diet foods we carry, we're excited to also offer halal products with this line of quality frozen entrees.

Saffron Road's halal items are still for sale in Whole Foods. Yet partners at the stores are directed to tell customers: "Whole Foods Market is not promoting Ramadan, but rather featuring the great halal offerings our shoppers can find in our stores during this special time."

Because God forbid you should promote a holiday that's important to over two million people in this country. After all, you might get a couple of ignorant hatemongers upset.

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