AUSTIN, Texas (November 10, 2003) Whole Foods Market, Inc. (Nasdaq: WFMI), the only supermarket to own and operate a seafood processing and distribution facility, announced today an expansion into a triangle of geographically strategic seafood centers. The development reinforces quality control from boat to shopping cart while enhancing the variety, availability and freshness of its pristine wild-caught seafood offerings. By:

  • acquiring Select Fish, a premier distributor and processor of fresh and frozen sustainable seafood based in Seattle,
  • creating the Whole Foods Market South Seafood Distribution Facility, and
  • continuing to operate its wholly owned waterfront seafood processing facility, Pigeon Cove, in Gloucester, Mass.,

the company guarantees the freshest, highest quality seafood daily for shoppers at its 145 stores coast to coast.

“With the unprecedented task of bringing together this terrific trio of facilities, Whole Foods Market can guarantee our customers the freshest catch from our own proprietary seafood chain on all three 'coasts,'” said Dick Jones, Whole Foods Market national seafood buyer. “This network solidifies our ability to tap into the 'mother lode' of sustainable and wild-caught seafood.”

Select Fish

Whole Foods Market's acquisition of Select Fish, announced today, strengthens direct access to the very best Pacific Northwest seafood — caught from Northern California to Alaska — seven days per week. Founded in 1987, their mission is to support fisheries that use techniques to ensure the ecological health of the ocean and abundance of marine life. The majority of the seafood is fresh and is flown out daily from the Seattle-based 12,000-square-foot facility for next morning arrival at Whole Foods Market stores.

For four years, Whole Foods Market has worked closely with Select Fish to obtain Marine Stewardship Council-certified sustainable wild Alaska salmon, as well as halibut, spot prawns, Dungeness crab, and black cod, among other offerings.

“We are highly selective about the caliber of product we offer our shoppers at Whole Foods Market, and Select Fish has an excellent track record of delivering that quality and freshness. Bringing them into our family is a natural addition as our businesses share similar values including a commitment to quality, seafood sustainability, and open dialogue and trust with employees,” said Walter Robb, executive vice president of operations for Whole Foods Market.

Select Fish works closely with sustainable fisheries, including one fishery in Yakutat, Alaska. A community of almost 800 people, more than half of Yakutat's residents are native Tlingits, and the local economy is dependent upon wild Alaska salmon and commercial fishing. Local fishermen catch the fish in a set net just 100 yards from the ocean; the fresh catch is flown out of an airport less than ten miles from the processing plant to guarantee maximum freshness.

“What an amazing opportunity to join forces with Whole Foods Market and to continue doing what we do best for a top-notch supermarket that pays such attention to quality, freshness and sustainability,” said Scott Barton, Select Fish founder and original owner.

Select Fish's employees — approximately 40 in the “low” season and more than 65 in the “high” season — will become team members of Whole Foods Market, a company ranked by Fortune magazine as one of the “Top 100 Companies to Work For” in America every year since the list's inception.

Whole Foods Market South Seafood Distribution Facility

Whole Foods Market also announced today the opening of its South Seafood Distribution Facility, which will be headed up by Facility Coordinator and South Regional Team Leader John Bowler. The new 12,000-square-foot-plus facility is located in the company's Atlanta grocery distribution center, a space secured by the 2001 acquisition of Harry's Farmers Market.

The facility will send fresh product indigenous to the Southeast Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico — including snapper, grouper, wild shrimp and Mahi Mahi — daily to all Whole Foods Market stores with its new and innovative overnight shipping program. This Southern facility will also serve as an import and distribution point for fresh Central and South American species such as tilapia, shrimp and trout.

Pigeon Cove

Pigeon Cove, the company's near 12,000-square-foot East Coast waterfront seafood facility and processing plant, has been a part of Whole Foods Market for more than seven years. Run by founder Steve Parkes, Pigeon Cove sources fish such as cod, haddock, sea scallops, flounder and sole from 26 boats fishing exclusively for Whole Foods Market. It selects fish from day boats, or from the “top of the catch” — the freshest and most recently caught.

By operating its own seafood facility, Whole Foods Market has proven it can control quality from boat to shopping cart. While other seafood processors utilize a base food safety program, Whole Foods Market's Pigeon Cove facility goes the extra mile by enforcing the U.S. Department of Commerce's strict standardized controls and frequent inspection schedule to guarantee seafood processed at the facility is of the best quality. This comprehensive program ensures proper handling, sanitation and temperature control, as well as ongoing test samplings and monitoring. Neither Pigeon Cove nor the other two facilities treat seafood with chlorine or other chemicals, a common practice in the industry.

Whole Foods Market's Commitment To Quality And The Environment

As part of the company's long-standing commitment to continually seek out the most pristine seafood available while helping to keep a plentiful bounty for future generations, Whole Foods Market has been instrumental in educating consumers about the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). An international, non-profit working to enhance responsible management of seafood resources through a certification and eco-labeling program, the MSC is based in London with offices in Seattle and in Australia. As the first American retailer to offer MSC-labeled wild Alaska salmon, Whole Foods Market also conducts an annual wild Alaska salmon promotion to direct shoppers to a quick and easy way to make the “best environmental choice in seafood” by looking for the MSC program's eco-label.

The company is committed to help increase the number of certified sustainable seafood species available closer to home. It funds the Whole Foods Market Americas Fisheries Initiative that identifies fisheries in North, Central, and South America that may ultimately be certified as sustainable and well-managed under the MSC program.