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IT'S BECOMING INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT to refer to Whole Foods as "that chain of natural food stores." After 25 years of sophisticated merchandising that respects consumers' intelligence; exceptional, years-long same-store growth; and a steady pace of acquisitions and new-store construction of larger stores, the chain is on the verge of becoming a mainstream competitor."Most conventional supermarkets

IT'S BECOMING INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT to refer to Whole Foods as "that chain of natural food stores." After 25 years of sophisticated merchandising that respects consumers' intelligence; exceptional, years-long same-store growth; and a steady pace of acquisitions and new-store construction of larger stores, the chain is on the verge of becoming a mainstream competitor.

"Most conventional supermarkets don't have well-established brands," John Mackey, the chain's co-founder and chief exe

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