Whole Foods Market is a major American supermarket chain that specializes in selling natural and organic foods. With hundreds of stores across North America and the United Kingdom, Whole Foods has become a go-to destination for shoppers looking for high-quality produce, meat, seafood, baked goods, prepared foods, nutritional supplements, and more.
One area where Whole Foods really shines is their extensive selection of plant-based and non-dairy products. As demand for non-dairy milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and other items continues to grow, Whole Foods has stepped up to meet the needs of their health-conscious and environmentally-minded customers.
But does every Whole Foods location actually have a designated non-dairy or plant-based section? How easy is it to find these products in-store? In this article, we’ll take a closer look at Whole Foods’ offerings and organization to see if non-dairy products have a clear place in their stores.
The Rise of Non-Dairy Foods
Over the past decade, non-dairy alternatives to traditional milk and milk-based products have exploded in popularity. Here are some key statistics about the non-dairy foods boom:
– Sales of non-dairy milks including almond, oat, soy, coconut, and others topped $2 billion in 2019, up 3.6% from the previous year.
– Plant-based milks now make up 13% of overall milk sales.
– Oat milk sales alone have grown over 130% year-over-year.
– Non-dairy yogurt sales reached $300 million in 2019.
– The non-dairy yogurt sector grew by 39% in 2018.
Non-Dairy Ice Cream
– Non-dairy ice cream sales were up 27% in 2019 to $326 million.
– The overall ice cream industry grew only 1%.
– Sales of plant-based cheese hit $189 million in 2019, up 23% year-over-year.
So what’s driving this tremendous growth in non-dairy foods? There are several major factors at play:
– Rising rates of lactose intolerance – It’s estimated that over 30 million Americans are lactose intolerant, meaning they can’t fully digest the lactose found in dairy milk. Non-dairy milks don’t contain lactose so they offer a more tolerable option.
– Allergies and sensitivities – In addition to lactose intolerance, many people have actual allergies to casein and whey, proteins found in dairy milk. Plant-based options avoid these allergens.
– Interest in plant-based diets – For ethical, environmental, or health reasons, more consumers are cutting back on animal products or eliminating them completely. Non-dairy foods allow vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians to reduce their dairy intake.
– Nutritional benefits – While not nutritionally identical to cow’s milk, many popular non-dairy milks like soy and almond contain plenty of nutrients like protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. They can be part of a healthy diet for many.
– Environmental impact – Dairy farming is resource-intensive and generates significant greenhouse emissions. Non-dairy products have a lighter environmental footprint.
– Variety and taste improvements – Non-dairy milks, yogurts, cheeses, and ice creams are coming in delicious new flavors and varieties. Quality and taste profiles continue to improve.
With so many good reasons for consumers to choose plant-based milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream alternatives over traditional dairy, it’s no wonder sales are booming. Retailers like Whole Foods have been quick to expand their non-dairy offerings to match increasing customer demand.
Whole Foods’ Non-Dairy Selection
As the world’s leading natural and organic foods retailer, Whole Foods cares deeply about accommodating specialized diets and lifestyles. That includes providing an extensive selection of non-dairy products.
Here’s a brief overview of the types of non-dairy foods you can expect to find at Whole Foods:
Whole Foods has entire refrigerator cases devoted just to non-dairy milks made from bases like:
– Pea protein
– Macadamia nut
They offer both plain and flavored varieties, including popular options like vanilla and chocolate. You’ll also find barista blends designed for steaming and foaming.
The yogurt section features an extensive selection of dairy-free coconut, soy, and almond-based yogurts from brands like So Delicious, Kite Hill, Forager Project, and more. Look for options that are unflavored or flavored with fruit, vanilla, chocolate, etc.
Whole Foods has a case just for plant-based cheeses including:
– Nut-based cheeses like almond cheese or cashew cheese
– Soy-based cheeses
– Vegan cream cheese
– Vegan cheese shreds and slices for melting/topping
– Vegan parmesan and cheese crumbles
Major brands like Miyoko’s, Kite Hill, Treeline, and Violife supply the selection. Styles range from cheddar and mozzarella to feta and soft cheese spreads.
Non-Dairy Ice Cream
The freezer aisles feature pints and bars from all the top makers of dairy-free ice cream including:
– So Delicious
– Coconut Bliss
– Van Leeuwen
– Julie’s Organics
– Alden’s Organics
Flavors tend toward fruit and herbs rather than artificial colors or flavors.
Other Non-Dairy Items
Beyond just milk, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream alternatives, Whole Foods stocks tons of other vegan products like:
– Plant-based butter and spreads
– Vegan puddings and custards
– Vegan creams, whipped toppings, and creamers
– Plant-based eggs and mayonnaise
– Vegan ready-to-eat meals and desserts
So is it easy to shop for all these non-dairy foods at Whole Foods? That depends a bit on the individual location.
Do Whole Foods Have a Designated Non-Dairy Section?
Since Whole Foods stores can differ quite a bit in layout and size, there’s no uniform approach to how they organize and display non-dairy items.
Some locations have a distinct non-dairy section while others scatter plant-based products in with their dairy counterparts. Here are some of the ways non-dairy foods may be set up in Whole Foods stores:
Designated Plant-Based Section
In some Whole Foods stores, all the non-dairy items are grouped together in one clearly labeled Plant-Based or Vegan section. This makes it easy for dairy-free shoppers to locate what they need.
These designated plant-based sections are often located together near the produce department rather than scattered throughout the store.
Mixed in with Dairy Products
Other Whole Foods locations don’t have a separate vegan section. Instead the non-dairy milks, cheeses, yogurts, butter, etc. are integrated right next to their dairy counterparts.
For example, the yogurt coolers may contain both regular Greek yogurt alongside coconut, almond, and soy yogurts. And the cheese case may mix Kite Hill almond cheese wheels with normal cheese wheels from Cowgirl Creamery.
Some Whole Foods take a hybrid approach, with certain non-dairy products clustered together while others are integrated.
For instance, all the plant-based milks and ice creams may be in one vegan freezer section, but the non-dairy cheeses are mixed in the regular cheese case. Or the dairy-free creamers are together on a shelf, but soy yogurts sit next to dairy yogurts.
No matter which setup a particular Whole Foods location uses, you can typically find non-dairy options in the same general areas where you’d expect to find the dairy versions of those products.
If you can’t immediately spot the plant-based milks or cheeses, taking a closer look around the dairy department will often turn up results. Don’t hesitate to ask a Whole Foods team member for help locating non-dairy items too.
Tips for Finding Non-Dairy Items at Whole Foods
While each Whole Foods store is laid out differently, here are some useful tips for seeking out non-dairy foods:
– Start by looking for specifically labeled sections like “Plant-Based” or “Vegan”. This is the most obvious place to browse first.
– Search refrigerator and freezer cases thoroughly. Don’t just glance – non-dairy milks and alternative meats may be tucked into corners.
– Check shelf tags closely. A tiny “vegan” or “dairy-free” tag may indicate an otherwise hard to distinguish item.
– Don’t just look at eye level. Top and bottom shelves often contain less mainstream products.
– Ask at the customer service desk. Employees have store maps and can give directions.
– Flag down a team member walking the aisles. They can take you right to the exact item needed.
– Use the Whole Foods app or website to search for items and see their aisle location listed.
– Type non-dairy, vegan, dairy-free, etc. into the aisle directory kiosk to pull up relevant results.
– Explore the freezer aisle thoroughly for non-dairy ice creams and other goods. Check endcaps too.
– Don’t overlook Whole Body department for supplements, beauty products, and cleaning items.
With some persistence and creativity, you can hunt down even hard-to-find pantry staples like nutritional yeast, vegan marshmallows, and dairy-free caramel sauce.
Non-Dairy Brands at Whole Foods
Whole Foods stocks all manner of plant-based brands across every category. Some of the major players supplying Whole Foods’ non-dairy selection include:
Non-Dairy Milk Brands
– Califia Farms
– Pacific Foods
– Good Karma
– Soy Dream
– Almond Breeze
Non-Dairy Yogurt Brands
– Kite Hill
– Forager Project
– Coconut Collaborative
– So Delicious
Non-Dairy Cheese Brands
– Kite Hill
– Field Roast Chao
– Follow Your Heart
– Go Veggie
Non-Dairy Ice Cream Brands
– So Delicious
– Van Leeuwen
– Julie’s Organics
– Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss
– Alden’s Organics
– Booja Booja
Beyond just these major players, Whole Foods is committed to promoting smaller artisanal producers of plant-based foods too. Local makers and innovative new brands are given shelf space right alongside larger companies.
Whole Foods’ Commitment to Plant-Based Products
With its purchasing power and extensive distribution network, Whole Foods has played an integral role in bringing non-dairy foods into the mainstream.
They state their commitment to promoting plant-based products and diets on their website:
“Plant-based, vegetarian and vegan diets are really important to us at Whole Foods Market. We’re proud to offer one of the largest selections of plant-based products available, with delicious and innovative items in every department.”
Whole Foods’ in-house 365 Everyday Value brand has a dedicated plant-based line too. 365 Plant Based products include non-dairy cheese shreds, oatmilk ice cream, soy yogurt, and more.
And in recent years, Whole Foods has sponsored Vegan Restaurant Weeks and plant-based pop-ups. They also host an annual Supplier Awards with a dedicated Vegan Product category.
While not 100% perfect, Whole Foods remains devoted to growing the selection, quality, and public appreciation of vegan and plant-based foods in America and beyond.
So does Whole Foods have a non-dairy foods section? The answer may vary a bit by location, but overall Whole Foods is wholeheartedly committed to offering bountiful options for plant-based shoppers.
With an unparalleled selection of non-dairy milks, cheeses, yogurts, ice creams, butter, eggs, and much more, Whole Foods is truly a vegan and lactose intolerant shopper’s paradise.
While the organization and labeling of these items can be hit or miss between stores, a bit of focused searching will pay dividends. Customers seeking dairy-free goods can rest assured that Whole Foods has them covered. Just come prepared to hunt around a little in the pursuit of plant perfection.