Whole Foods Improves Online Browsing Experience with Dietary Filters

Patrycja Malinowska
Director, Member Content, P2PI
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Consumers can now filter the items on through a multitude of lenses: vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, Paleo friendly, Keto friendly, sugar conscious, dairy free, kosher, organic, Whole Foods Diet approved, Engine 2, low sodium and low fat. Shoppers also can continue to filter by categories (such as produce, cheese, etc.) and sales. Upon searching, users see a product photo, nutrition facts and an ingredient list, as well as diet and allergen tags.

Adding nutritional content elevates Whole Foods above its competition in terms of providing a wide breadth of searchable product information. For comparison, the dietary filters offered on the recently improved search are: gluten-free, vegan, caffeine-free, kosher, organic (both lowercase and in all capitals), dairy-free and wheat-free.

In a media release announcing the update, Whole Foods said nearly one-third of its frequent customers said they shop according to a specific dietary preference and presented the optimized site as "a quick and convenient way for those shoppers to research food options and verify availability at their local store."

Whole Foods likely manually grabbed the information from product packaging. Retailers also increasingly want brands to provide these kind of additional product details and enhanced item content. A disclaimer at the bottom of Whole Food's site helps the retailer skirt liability concerns, informing shoppers that the information provided on the site should not be relied upon to make health-related decisions and to always consult product packaging for the most recent ingredient formulations.

"Whole Foods Market has always been a go-to for those who follow special diets or want greater transparency into what they are eating," said Whole Foods Market executive vice president of technology and chief information officer Jason Buechel. "This new experience makes it easier than ever for those customers to find products that fit their needs from dietary preferences to lifestyle changes."

Yet from a shopper perspective the experience still carries several barriers to purchase, including the lack of an ability to build or export a shopping list.

After browsing, shoppers have to leave the site and visit their local store to complete a transaction. Meanwhile, those few Prime members in Prime Now markets offering online ordering (curbside pickup is in about 30 cities and delivery is offered in some 60 cities) do not get the benefit of the new filters via that platform.

Path to Purchase Institute members can view more Whole Foods activity at Members have access to additional articles and images, along with a full Retailer Profile outlining the company's operations and strategies.