A few months ago, I had the opportunity to help out Anna from Marry Me Tampa Bay (a fellow Tampa Bay Lady Blogger) with her application process to become the Marketing Team Leader for this store. She got the job and invited all of us to RSVP for a store tour before it actually opened. Now you may not know this but I absolutely LOVE the concept of Whole Foods Market. A healthy, sustainable grocery store that supports local farmers and fair trade growers is a dream come true (in my opinion).
Our tour was scheduled for 7:30 but we arrived a little early. I must have looked a little obvious because as soon as I brought out my camera the ladies at the check in desk asked if I was a blogger. Am I really that obvious?? Once the 7:15 group left, we were brought inside and handed empty goody bags.
Right before 7:30 our tour guide introduced herself and gave us a break down of what we were going to see tonight throughout the store. Then we got to the fun stuff. Our first stop was the Produce section, which is what you see as soon as you enter the store.
A produce team leader spoke to us about the higher quality standards that Whole Foods requires from their suppliers. He explained the difference between organic and conventional labels that are found on foods throughout the produce section and the rest of the store. Organic foods are those foods that have not been chemically or artificially altered in anyway (no pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, etc.). Conventional foods are those foods that are not organic but still meet the Whole Foods standards of quality.
While we were in the Produce section, we sampled some organic pineapple. The produce guy encouraged us to ask Whole Foods team members for samples of any products we wanted to. They want to make sure we get exactly what we want.
Our next tour stop was the Whole Body section. According to the Whole Body team leader, the philosophy of Whole Foods Market doesn’t just apply to what we eat but it also extends to every aspect of our lives. The products that are sold in this section are held to the same standards of quality that everything else in the store is. If the product is labeled organic, than it has been certified by the USDA.The Whole Body team has also established a set of standards for those products that are labeled natural or all natural. The intention to avoid any confusion and make sure that you know exactly what products you are using.
While we were listening the Whole Body team leader, our tour guide passed out samples of organic peppermint lip balm. I love lip balm and can’t wait to try this stuff out. They carry a very wide variety of products in this section from beauty products to dietary supplements to clothing and fitness accessories. They even carry TOMs shoes!
After the Whole Body section, we headed over the Health Starts Here area. The Health Starts Here program provides healthy recipe ideas, cooking classes and other initiatives to help you be successful with your healthy living journey. We also learned about other sustainable, green and recycling programs that are going on throughout the Carrollwood store.
One of the team members handed us a recipe for peanut butter and chocolate brownies, which we had the chance to sample. They were delicious! I am will definitely be trying to make these at home and maybe even experimenting a little bit.
Then it was on to the Seafood section. I love all kinds of seafood and was really excited to learn about the standards of quality that Whole Foods Market has for their seafood products. Did you know that Whole Foods is the first and only national grocery chain to be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council? Not only do they sell certified seafood products in pre-packaged containers but they also stock their fresh seafood counter with it!
While we were listening to the presentation about the seafood section, we were handed Key Lime Shrimp. Can I just say that these were amazing and I will be purchasing them the next time I am in the store! The flavor of these shrimp was a perfect blend of key lime citrus flavor and and chopped cilantro.
The Butcher Shop is right next door to the Seafood section. The butcher was actually available to speak to us about the practices that they follow when selecting the meats that are sold in the store. Whole Foods Market uses the Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Star Animal Welfare Rating System to determine the quality of the meat that is sold in stores. When you look at the label, you will know the quality of life that the animal had.
In the meat section, we were provided with samples of Thompson Farms sausage. This sample was actually spicier than I normally eat but it was very good. A vendor from Thompson Farms will be on-hand to answer questions and pass out more samples during opening weekend.
The Grocery section is the largest section in any grocery store. The products available in this section are such a wide variety that is hard to describe them all. One of the things that I love about Whole Foods Market is that they offer so many different types of foods for the different dietary needs. They don’t just offer one brand of gluten free products. They want to offer their customers as much variety as possible so they can find exactly what they are looking for.
Can I just say that it is totally awesome that they have milk available in glass bottles!! My boyfriend was so intrigued by this that he took a closer look at it. I can see us purchasing that in the near future. We were also provided with some samples of 365 Organic products, which is Whole Foods private label.
The specialty items were up next on our store tour, which means it was time to check out the cheese section and the whole bean coffee section (two of my favorite things). In this area, we learned about how Whole Foods selects the cheeses that they offer in their store. By this point, I was overwhelmed with all of the information I had already learned about this great grocery store. One thing I really liked was that the team members hold Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese wheel cracking competitions throughout the year.
Learning about cheese wouldn’t be complete without sampling some cheese! Our tour guide passes out sample of freshly cracked Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. I could honestly taste the freshness of the cheese. It was a fantastic sample! We were also given a sample package of the Whole Foods coffee brand to brew at home and a maple cheese plate. I can’t wait to try out the cheese plate!
As we were wondering through the store, I loved seeing some of the displays already set up. There was literally a mountain of chocolate near the cheese section! My boyfriend had to divert my attention from that display.
The Prepared Foods section is one of the areas that has always set Whole Foods apart from of grocery store chains. Unlike other Whole Foods Markets, the one in Carrollwood will adding BBQ’ed and smoked items to their Hot Foods Bar. They have a really smoker in the store and a BBQ Pit Master on the staff!
All I am going to say about the sample from the Prepared Foods section is: Pumpkin Tortellini and Butternut Squash. That is all. IT WAS AMAZING! (I really love pumpkin.)
The last stop on our tour of the Bakery and Drink Bar. It isn’t a secret that I love baked goods and sweets. The fall and winter months always have tendency to bring out my sweet tooth. This area of the store of pretty empty of product though so we didn’t get a chance to see any of the delicious treats that will be available. They make everything fresh each morning so the display cases won’t be filled until the store is opened.
We were given an Italian cookie to sample though. I chose the half moon shaped cookie that was dipped in chocolate and had raspberry jam in the middle. It was really yummy!
The Bakery area is connected with the coffee/juice/drink bar so we learned about everything related to that while we enjoyed our cookies. I will definitely be bringing in my reusable coffee cup next time I am at the store! No matter where your cup is from, they will refill it with a brewed coffee or tea for just $1.
I am a self-proclaimed coffee snob and I don’t like every coffee out there. For example, my office has free coffee in the break room but I refuse to drink it because it doesn’t taste good to me at all. Instead, I walk across the street to purchase coffee from Starbucks. The coffee samples that they provided us at the Drink Bar were delicious! It was a light to medium blend that had a very smooth finish to it. I would definitely drink that coffee again and again!
I can’t thank the brand new Whole Foods Market in Carrollwood enough for hosting the store tours on Monday. I also truly appreciate being invited by Anna. If you live in the Tampa Bay Area, you really need to go check out the new Whole Foods. They will be having special events going on all weekend and special sales for the next two weeks. Check out the store calendar for more information!