AUSTIN, Texas (September 30, 2005) After a vote by the magazine's editors and a panel of outside experts, Fast Company magazine recently released its second annual Customers First Awards, honoring 15 American businesses working to keep their customers happy. Whole Foods Market (NASDAQ: WFMI) was recognized as a runner-up in the category of Retail Innovator for its commitment to Team Members, one of the company's core values: supporting Team Member happiness and excellence.

  Fast Company's editors and a panel of outside experts chose the 15 finalists; the magazine then conducted an online survey in which more than 1,700 respondents ranked the finalists in five categories: high-tech achievers, retail innovators, leading listeners, profitable players, and customer-centered leaders.The magazine recognized Whole Foods Market's innovative and unprecedented company-wide benefit plan, which allows Team Members to vote on the company's benefits every three years- everything from medical plans and vacation time to life insurance and a 401k match.

“Whole Foods Market offers an empowering work environment, and our success in our 25-year history is dependent upon the collective energy of all Team Members. We recognize that the role of the company's leadership is to make our Team Members happy – and they will make our customers happy,” said Paula Labian, vice president of Team Member Services at Whole Foods Market. “Our company was founded on the ideals of respect for the individual and shared fate, and our unique benefits vote in which Team Members decide what is most important to them in our benefits package is an example of these values. In addition to offering fair wages and benefits, we create work environments where everyone's voice matters.”Whole Foods Market was also recognized for the company's policy that caps all executive pay at a rate of no more than 14 times the average hourly pay of Team Members.