John Mackey and his Quest for Conscious Capitalism

Jeff Siegel

Written By Jeff Siegel

Posted June 24, 2024

John Mackey and his quest for conscious capitalism began with Whole Foods Market.  It was one of the first stock recommendations I ever made. And one of the first triple-digit gains I ever delivered to members of my Green Chip Stocks investment community. 

John Mackey and his quest for conscious capitalism

This was also one of the first recommendations I ever made that resulted in some pretty nasty emails from investors who thought I was foolish to invest in a grocery store that catered to such a small niche of consumers.  At the time, anyway.

This was before you could find organic chicken and bottles of local kombucha at Walmart and Albertsons.  Back when non-GMO and unprocessed foods were primarily the domain of overzealous treehuggers and wealthy eccentrics. 

The company was still quite young when I recommended that folks buy a few shares.  And to be honest, there were a lot of people in this country that had never even stepped foot inside a Whole Foods store.  Much less heard about John Mackey and his quest for conscious capitalism. But I had.  And for me, it was everything I yearned for as a conscious eater.  That is, someone who wanted to consume fruits and vegetables that weren’t showered in herbicides and pesticides.  Someone who wanted to eat chicken and beef that didn’t come from an industrial feedlot where animals are treated like soulless widgets while wallowing in their own filth and excrement.  

Indeed, I knew I was in the minority.  Back then, most folks didn’t care where their food came from.  And honestly, I don’t believe most care today, either.  I say this, by the way, not to criticize anyone.  This is just an observation of truth.  Nothing more. 

Now when the first Whole Foods Market opened up in Baltimore, it didn’t take long for me to become a loyal customer.  I went there every Sunday to do my food shopping, and I actually enjoyed it.  

I enjoyed wandering through the aisles and discovering all kinds of new and healthy foods I had never seen before.  I looked forward to walking through the mazes of produce and finding mountains of organic peaches, apples, bananas, and strawberries.  It was nothing like the conventional supermarkets I had been visiting for years. 

The store itself was super clean and bright.  The employees actually seemed happy to be there.  The place made me feel like it wasn’t a chore to go food shopping. It was something fun that I looked forward to.  Like going to a movie or meeting friends for a drink.  And I know I wasn’t alone.

The truth is Whole Foods re-created the food shopping experience.  The company made food shopping enjoyable. And it catered to a group of consumers that had long been ignored, and in many cases trivialized. 

Co-founder and former CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, recognized this as an opportunity long before most folks even knew “organic” was a thing.  Although his success didn’t happen  overnight.

John Mackey and his Quest for Conscious Capitalism: An investment strategy that works!

In a recent interview with Reason Magazine journalist Nick Gillespie, Mackey noted that initially, his store, which wasn’t even called Whole Foods yet, only sold natural and organic fruits, vegetables, and grains.  It was really geared towards the vegetarian community. But after burning through a bunch of cash, he realized that his desire to provide foods primarily for vegetarians who wanted to eat clean food was not enough to make the business a success.  The market had spoken.  So he pivoted in an effort to meet the demands of the market, and not just his own ideals.  

To be sure, Whole Foods was still selling clean food.  The types of things that didn’t contain artificial ingredients, preservatives, etc.  But the store also started selling coffee, meats, beer and wine.  The result?  Within six months, it was the highest volume natural foods store in the U.S. 

Mackey was able to integrate his own ideals and business ethics with the basic fundamentals of supply and demand in a free market arena.  And ultimately, Whole Foods became wildly successful, benefitting Mackey, Whole Foods investors, and customers.  Whole Foods was actually such a force, just the presence of a Whole Foods would increase the property values of the neighborhoods in which Whole Foods set up shop. 

If you’re a regular reader of these pages, you know that this is the kind of story that really speaks to me.  The idea that you can do well by doing good.  In this case, the success of Whole Foods resulted in organic farmers making more money.  This took a little market share away from those massive industrial feedlots. Then handed it over to farmers and ranchers that respect not only the animals they raise but the land on which they graze.  

Some might chalk this kind of talk up to some hippie nonsense. But there’s nothing nonsensical about not wanting to treat the planet like a toilet. And in this situation, Whole Foods not only facilitated the growth of sustainable food production, but it also rewarded investors with massive profits. 

This kind of investing is really the basis for my investment strategy.  It has been since 2004, and it continues to be to this day. And despite quite a few naysayers in the early days of Green Chip Stocks, this strategy has proved successful.

Over the years, we’ve invested and profited from clean energy, legal cannabis, food technology, sustainable banking, cleaner transportation technologies, and alternative and natural medicine.  The latter, by the way, is something Mackey is now focusing on. 

Last summer, John Mackey announced the launch of his latest venture, Love.Life

Here’s a snippet from the press release

Love.Life, an integrated health and wellness company, is proud to announce the launch of its groundbreaking virtual health optimization programs and plans for its first flagship location slated to open in the summer of 2024. Love.Life provides a one-stop immersive health experience by combining nourishing food, evolved medical care, and cutting-edge wellness therapies.

The company’s new optimization programs provide patient-centric medical care that is outcome-driven, personalized, and dedicated to addressing all aspects of an individual’s health. With licensed physicians practicing telehealth nationwide, Love.Life empowers individuals to proactively improve their health by focusing on the root causes of chronic diseases and offering comprehensive solutions.

As a health conscious consumer, Love.Life really speaks to me.  

Those who know me well know that I’ve long been a firm believer that the secret to optimal health and longevity is diet, exercise, and lifestyle.  Nothing particularly revelatory, but something that has allowed me to not only survive, but thrive as a 53-year-old man. While most of my college friends spent their summer vacations last year drinking beer and sleeping on the beach, I was in Thailand getting my ass kicked at a Muay Thai camp.  And I loved every minute of it!

muay thai

The majority of my food comes from a local farm where the owners of the farm practice strict organic and regenerative farming practices.  The food I eat is loaded with nutrition, free of dangerous chemicals, and it just tastes amazing.

I’m at the gym at least five days a week, with at least three to four of those days doing CrossFit.  To be sure, I’m stronger and have more energy than I did in my 20s.  I rarely drink alcohol, I meditate almost every night, and I limit my intake of sugar.  I say “limit,” because donuts, cakes, pies and cookies are just so damn good.  But everything in moderation, right? I actually bake most of my own treats these days, anyway.  And use local maple syrup to sweeten everything from apple cakes and chocolate chip cookies to sweet potato pie and peach muffins.  

For me, it really is a lifestyle that I’ve come to love.  Feeling good – both physically and mentally is a gift that I don’t take for granted.  And thanks to John Mackey, I was able to discover this path decades ago, after I first strolled into that Whole Foods Market in Baltimore.  But I’m not going to lie.  If something like Love.Life existed back when I was in my 20s, I’d probably be in even better shape today.

Having access to a sort of one-stop shop that offers fitness, stress management, nutrition, telehealth, coaching.  This is a very convenient option for so many people in this country who barely have time to sit and read a book for 30 minutes.  It’s a brilliant idea, and I have no doubt it will be incredibly successful.  If it was a public company, I wouldn’t hesitate to invest. 

In any event, if you have about an hour, I highly recommend this interview with John Mackey.  Everything he says lends itself to a truism that I often proclaim: Capitalism is a Catalyst for Positive Change.  Capitalism makes the world a better place.  

This represents the foundation of my own investment philosophy. And more importantly, it represents a valuable tool in the fight to protect capitalism in a world where many people don’t fully understand how lucky they are to have benefited from the spoils of a free market.  Which don’t only include wealth creation, but three things I hold dear: freedom, opportunity, and peace.

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