Whole Foods' CEO Is Once Again In Hot Water With Gen Z

Whole Foods is known for prioritizing quality and virtue when it comes to its products, but not always when it comes to its public relations. This is a statement that members of Generation Z (born between the late 1990s and early 2010s) can certainly confirm, even though Whole Foods has a pretty strong track record of appealing to Millennials, the preceding generation (via Insider). With its fair share of scandals under its belt, like racial discrimination against customers and unfair pay for employees, it's no wonder that the store wouldn't always align with the generation whose key characteristics are being socially conscious, active, and vocal (via Retail Leader).

Once again, Whole Foods has missed the mark with this generation, and this time it's the comments that the grocery chain's CEO John Mackey made in a Reason Magazine podcast episode that are cause for concern. And it's all because the grocery store honcho — whose net worth is more than $75 million, according to Forbes — made a sweeping generalization about them.

The controversial remarks

In the Reason Magazine podcast episode "Whole Foods' John Mackey: 'I Feel Like Socialists Are Taking Over,'" John Mackey made comments on Gen Z's mindset and work ethic that were eyebrow-raising. Specifically, his belief that younger people "don't seem like they want to work." He elaborated, saying: "Younger people aren't quick to work because they want meaningful work ... You can't expect to start with meaningful work. You're going to have to earn it over time." While not explicitly mentioning a specific generation, it's implied that he's gearing these statements towards Gen Z, as its members are some of the newest workforce hires.

While it's true that Gen Z cares about doing work that aligns with their values more than older generations (via LinkedIn), there's more to Gen Z work trends than just standing behind values. As Business Insider points out, they're also fighting for pay that properly considers the demands of the job and skyrocketing costs of living. Despite record-breaking rates of inflation, the federal minimum wage in the U.S. has not risen since 2009. Hourly wages for entry-level jobs traditionally filled by young workers are just not cutting it anymore. Gen Z recognizes this, demanding better pay and worker protection from large companies like Whole Foods.

As more zoomers enter the workforce in the coming years, Mackey and other industry leaders should be prepared to run their companies ethically and treat their employees justly if they want this outspoken generation on their side.