In December 2016, the vegan and non-vegan groups at Whole Foods (and its subsidiary Whole Foods Market) filed a lawsuit against the company and its CEO, John Mackey, accusing them of misleading consumers with a misleading advertising campaign.
The company settled the case for $3.5 million in October 2018.
The lawsuit also accused the company of violating its fiduciary duty, by failing to disclose to consumers that Whole Foods’ products contain meat, and failing to report on animal cruelty.
In the wake of the settlement, Whole Foods CEO John Mackeys admitted to misrepresenting the number of vegans and nonvegans at the company.
In a speech to employees, he also told them that the company was committed to veganism, but that it would be difficult to keep up with the demand for vegan products.
“I want you to know that I am committed to your health and wellbeing and the health of our customers,” Mackeys said.
“That is why we are working to educate consumers about the health risks associated with veganism and to create a community of people who share that same commitment to a vegan lifestyle.”
He also stated that the number and quality of vegan products was up and down, but Whole Foods continued to grow the supply of its vegan and organic products.
In May 2020, Whole Health, the company’s wellness and wellness-related brand, was acquired by the grocery chain Walmart, and the company announced that it was closing down its vegan-focused wellness and nutritional supplement section.
But the company also said it was working to increase its supply of vegan-centric products, and that it had invested $5 million to create an online platform that would allow customers to purchase products from the company with no sales tax.
A spokesperson for Whole Foods told BuzzFeed News that “while the wellness and nutrition section has been sold and is no longer available for purchase, we are continuing to work with the retailer to make vegan products available to them.”