Leaked audio reveals how Amazon's strategy of secrecy is spreading to Whole Foods

  • Whole Foods is keeping more of its projects under wraps, according to insiders.
  • “I’ve been in meetings where I’ve been asked to leave,” a corporate employee at Whole Foods’ global headquarters in Austin, Texas, told Business Insider.
  • Whole Foods’ chief information officer, Jason Buechel, discussed the shift to less transparency in a company-wide meeting on Tuesday.
  • “One of the things that’s a little different is we’re not able to be as transparent as what we were before,” he said, according to audio of the meeting obtained by Business Insider.
  • He described it as a “pivot” for Whole Foods’ culture but said the “art of surprise” was “helping the company substantially” by building up buzz around new projects.
  • The shift could have been influenced by Amazon, which has used a similar tactic to create massive buzz around its search for the site of its second headquarters.

Whole Foods is becoming a more secretive company under Amazon’s ownership, according to insiders.

The company is keeping more of its projects under wraps, and in some cases it’s asking employees to leave meetings that might reveal information about those projects, a corporate employee at Whole Foods’ global headquarters in Austin, Texas, told Business Insider.

“I’ve been in meetings where I’ve been asked to leave,” this person, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution, told Business Insider. “They will tell some of us to step out before they continue conversations.”

This type of secrecy is new for Whole Foods, which has traditionally had a laid-back culture that emphasises openness and transparency, this person said.

Whole Foods’ chief information officer, Jason Buechel, discussed the shift to less transparency in a company-wide meeting held in Austin on Tuesday.

He described it as a “pivot” for Whole Foods’ culture but said the “art of surprise” was “helping the company substantially” by building up buzz around new projects, according to an audio recording of the meeting obtained by Business Insider.

“One of the things that’s a little different is we’re not able to be as transparent as what we were before,” he said. “And I think we have to remind ourselves that’s not a negative thing. In many cases, the reason we’re doing that is we are trying to bring the art of surprise as we launch the program, and that gives us a ton of earned media.”

As an example, he mentioned the company’s decision to gradually roll out its new Amazon Prime member discounts so the promotions hit a handful of new states every couple of weeks.

“We’re now getting ready for our batch-three launch, and it’s like we have, like you know, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of impressions that we are actually able to generate because we are surprising every time we’re making that next announcement,” he said.

Whole Foods did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

The shift to less transparency could have been influenced by Amazon, which has used a similar tactic to try to control the level of publicity around its search for the site of its second headquarters.

Amazon has managed to keep a high level of secrecy around the project while at the same time generating massive buzz about it by talking about some parts of the process publicly.

At Whole Foods’ company meeting on Tuesday, Buechel encouraged employees “not to take it personally that we can’t always be transparent.”

“In many cases it was our culture for many years, at this point it’s a pivot, but it’s something that’s really helping the company substantially,” he said.

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