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Amazon had been militant about leaks during the seven weeks that the two companies had been in negotiations, and the vast majority of those working inside the building had been unaware that the deal was afoot.
Now they were meeting their new overlords for the first time. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey introduced Jeff Wilke of Amazon, who had flown in for the gathering. Wilke, the e-commerce giant’s CEO of Worldwide Consumer, decided to play to his foodie audience.
“I wanted to tell you just a little bit about how Whole Foods changed my life as a start,” he said. “As I was sitting this morning, eating breakfast, watching the sun rise over this beautiful city — by the way, quinoa, blueberry, and some other vegetables…”
That’s when Mackey, a vegan who avoids refined foods and travels with a rice cooker, lightheartedly corrected him. “Those aren’t vegetables,” he said. “That’s okay. We’re learning.”
In that moment, it was clear why Wilke and his team needed Whole Foods. His comment may have been just a slip of the tongue, but it reflected a persistent issue for the company: Amazon has expertise in many areas, but food is not one of them. For a decade, Amazon — a company with $178bn in revenue and seemingly limitless resources — had not come close to breaking the billion-dollar sales mark in its fresh food operation.
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