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Watch: Former WFM Co-CEO “I’ve Never Seen Such a Time of Challenge”

Carol Ortenberg

The food industry can sometimes feel like it’s evolving every day. New brands, new retailers, new diet trends — how can an emerging food company keep up? In a presentation at last week’s NOSH Live Summer 2019, Walter Robb, Former Whole Foods Market CEO and founder of investment firm Stonewall Robb, shared his vision for where the retail and food industry is heading — and how brands can stay ahead.

“I’ve been a grocer for 40 years and I’ve never seen such a time of challenge and disruption up and down the value chain from the seed all the way down to the table,” Robb said. “Therefore I’ve never seen such a time of opportunity. I’ve never seen a time when the customer wants small and medium sized brands.”

Drawing on experiences from his long career, Robb spoke about how the digital revolution has impacted shoppers and retailers and how it will continue to affect the evolution of retail environments. And although online retailing has changed the food industry, Robb noted that there’s still room for brick and mortar stores.“Human beings are human beings and they want connection and community and that is simply not available online,” he said.

Also in his presentation, Robb explored how technology has not only changed what consumers are eating but also what they value — namely transparency and better-for-you options.

“It’s got to be a real story. You can’t fool folks with stuff. You’ve got to really do the work to come up with something that’s interesting.”

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