Whole Foods to Serve Beer?

It seems that a whole slew of non-traditional beer sellers are getting into the market here lately. First, there was news that Starbucks would soon start selling alcohol and then drug stores started getting into the act with their own beers. Now it seems that Whole Foods is intent on getting their piece of the action. Whole Foods is a high-priced store that offers “sensory experiences” for their shoppers. They are now opening bars to serve wine and craft beers within their stores.

Currently, there are plans for about a dozen stores to test the project. These include Texas, Arizona, Illinois and California. The plan is to have at least 7 stores in the chain onboard with the plan by 2012 – that’s only a single year from testing to full implementation in those operations, which is a testament to just how promising the company sees the move. What’s really interesting about this move is the fact that it focuses on local craft beers and wines. That means that you won’t find the same options served in California as you will in Arizona – each store will serve a selection of locally brewed favorites. That’s certainly in keeping with the brewpub trend, which accounts for a large percentage of the craft beer market currently.

The goal of the program is to make the entire shopping experience better for patrons, according to an analyst. Studies have shown that consumers are more and more interested in luxury tied to affordability, as well as the ability to enjoy an intimate, personal experience with the brands that they trust. Creating craft beer and wine bars within their grocery stores gives Whole Foods a chance to deliver on that desire in a big way. After all, what other grocery stores can offer their patrons the chance to enjoy a growler for $7 or a glass of craft beer for $4? (Prices will vary by market, brand and with other conditions, of course.)

The bars will be small – with seating for about 20 people being the average, apparently. They will be located in the center of the store as well, giving patrons the means to access all the other areas from their comfortable perch beside the bar. While it remains to be seen just how successful the move will be for the company, the results of other companies in this area seem to indicate that it will be a rousing success.