Shoppers who frequent Whole Foods in search of organic broccoli and fair-trade coffee beans will soon have another kind of offering to browse: food-related travel itineraries.
Starting this spring, the natural-foods supermarket chain will launch Whole Journeys, a series of international trips geared toward “active foodies.” The small-group excursions, which will combine physical pursuits like biking and hiking with explorations of food culture, range from pedaling through the vineyards and orchards of Provence to trekking along the ancient Tea and Horse route in southwestern China.
Whole Journeys’ Executive Director, Kathy Dragon (a boutique travel outfitter for 20-plus years), says what will set the tours apart from other hike-bike-and-taste jaunts is the emphasis on food provenance. “The tie-in to Whole Foods Market means more interaction with farmers, cheese mongers, wine makers—a bigger focus on where and how the food is produced, and sharing that food with the communities that made it,” Dragon says. “Not just what the food is and how to eat it.”
Dragon was tapped to lead the new venture by Whole Foods’ co-CEO, John Mackey, who has been her travel companion since 1996; the two originally met when Mackey hired her to host a Maui walking tour for Whole Foods executives. And while Dragon will lead many of the trips herself, she’ll also be employing the expertise of locally based, bilingual guides whose intimate knowledge of each destination, she says, is indispensible.
According to Mackey, launching Whole Journeys as an extension of the brand is an idea whose time has come. The trips, he says, are “an effort to nourish our customers” with an understanding of the growers and artisans who supply many of the products found in Whole Foods’ aisles. “The foods we sell,” Mackey says, “often have a much deeper story.”
Detailed trip itineraries, schedules, and prices: wholejourneys.com.
Sarah Gold is a regular contributor to TravelandLeisure.com.