Hipster-Friendly Whole Foods Will Soon Brew Its Own Beer

Source: Thinkstock

We learned in March that craft beer sales are rising, but what we didn’t know was that we weren’t the only ones focusing in on the impressive figures. Craft beer sales jumped 20 percent last year, making up nearly 8 percent of all beer sales in the United States, and one retailer that took note is Whole Foods (NYSE:WFM). And how do we know? It’s now out in the open that the supermarket chain is taking applications for a brewmaster to head a brewery at a new Whole Foods location in Houston. It’s official: Whole Foods will be making its own brew.
The Huffington Post broke the news over the weekend that Whole Foods is looking for a brewmaster to manage brewing operations and a new craft beer program that will include an in-store bar. The brewery that the new brewmaster is expected to be in charge of is on Houston’s Post Oak Boulevard, due to open this summer. This is the first time the Austin-based company has ever worked to sell beer under its own label, and it might even be a first for the supermarket industry. The Huffington Post reports that while several other grocery chains sell their own beer, they typically outsource operations.
Before anyone gets too excited, we should point out that the retailer is still experimenting with its in-house brewery, and it doesn’t yet have plans to open breweries throughout the chain. Still, it’s definitely an exciting prospect for craft brew lovers who are interested in drinking the Whole Foods label. Considering that Whole Foods didn’t initially think its in-store bars initiative would take off and it’s now become a widespread practice that has seen significant success, we’re not counting Whole Foods out anytime soon.
The details of Whole Foods’ new brewery in Houston are still developing — not surprising, considering the chain only recently started soliciting applications for a brewmaster — but The Huffington Post spoke to Nichole Becerra, who oversees the beer programs for Whole Foods in the Southwest, and she explained, “As we developed our beer program and made it better, putting beer bars in our stores and offering growlers in our stores, it just seemed like a natural evolution for us.”
The publication also reports that, according to Becerra, the new Whole Foods brew name is still in the works, although she predicts it will be “something really fun,” rather than the 365 brand that the retailer uses for its in-house products. In addition, the company’s executives still haven’t determined what the brewmaster in Houston will brew, because that will depend on who the company hires: “The regional team isn’t going to dictate what they make. We really want to make it up to the expert and up to someone who might offer us a really great recipe,” Becerra said.
Aside from that, everything’s still up in the air. What is clear, though, is that Whole Foods is more than ready to expand its beer business and its brewing capacity, and we’d bet the Brewers Association’s recent figures likely aided that decision. As we noted earlier, 2013 was a good year for the American craft beer industry, with spending on craft beer growing 20 percent in that year alone — clearly, Whole Foods wants in on that buzz. Company executives are hoping that consumers will soon take to the Houston location to pick up their six pack of hipster beer, and after that, Whole Foods will have to decide how it wants to expand moving forward.