Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFM), the world’s leading organic and natural foods supermarket, announces that Michael Besancon, senior global vice-president of purchasing, distribution and communications, has decided to retire from the company after more than 17 years of service.

 “Having worked in our line of business from soup to nuts, Michael is absolutely one of the most knowledgeable natural and organic foods pioneers,” said Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. “He has been an outstanding leader at Whole Foods Market, and has earned well-deserved respect throughout our company and the industry. We will truly miss his wisdom and compassion.”

 At Whole Foods Market, Besancon served as regional vice-president of purchasing and as regional president for the company’s Southern Pacific region and as regional president for the Mid-Atlantic region. He led the company’s Green Mission task force, guiding the purchase of an unprecedented 100 percent electricity offset of wind renewable energy credits starting in 2006.

 He has dedicated 41 years of his career to providing natural and organic foods to those craving a healthier lifestyle. Prior to joining Whole Foods Market, Besancon was the co-owner of Follow Your Heart, a natural grocery store in Los Angeles and was vice-president at Nature’s Best Distributors.

 “It’s been an honor to be part of the Whole Foods family for all of these years growing from 30 stores when I started in 1994 to more than 300 today,” said Besancon. “I’m proud to have worked with so many dedicated, passionate leaders and team members who bring the very best natural and organic products to the marketplace while believing in the greater purpose of making the world a better place through their work. I’m thankful for the amazing journey.”

 An entrepreneur and environmental advocate, Besancon currently serves on the Board of Trustees of the Earth University Foundation. He will continue to reside in California and will dedicate his time to travel as well as pursuing non-profit work, business and consulting projects, and speaking opportunities.