The caricature of the snooty health nut may have some basis in reality.
Even among those who don't buy their groceries there, Whole Foods Market has something of an unfortunate nickname: Whole Paycheck. The company's reputation for selling up-market, healthful goods is both its saving grace as well as its curse, and Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has struggled to walk the line between defending his brand and accidentally sparking a class war.
"There's a significant portion of the population that doesn't want to keep eating crummy food, and they're willing to pay for it," said Mackey at a conference last year. Left unsaid is the implication that the rest of us sheep will continue to eat slop either because we don't know any better or we can't afford it -- and them's the breaks.
Mackey's apparent self-righteousness may not be a figment of your imagination. According to a study published this month in Social Psychological and Personality Science, people who are exposed to organic foods tend to judge others more harshly.
Kendall Eskine, an associate professor of psychology at Loyola University, says those who are primed to think about healthy organic foods like spinach, apples, and tomatoes are more likely to criticize morally questionable activities. He took 62 Loyola undergrads and divided them up into three groups. One group was given images of fruits and vegetables bearing organic labels; another saw comfort foods like cookies and ice cream; and the third group looked at "neutral" foods such as grains and beans.