I first met Walter through mutual friends some 25 years ago when he was a Regional President for Whole Foods Market. After stints as COO and Co-President, Walter became Co-CEO of Whole Foods Market in 2010 a position from which he retired a short time ago. In addition to being a super well respected icon in the natural products industry Walter was and still is a beloved leader in the Whole Foods Community. Here’s an example of why. I remember sitting in on a keynote presentation he made to the top 800 leaders in one of Whole Foods’ 12 regions. He began by scanning the audience and calling out names of people he recognized and recounting an experience or an interaction with each person; maybe at a team build or a store opening or simply a store visit. Now, a lot of people have good memories but Walter is one of those folks that when he is with you he is absolutely with you. As the saying goes, he had the room at “hello.” And remember, this was just with one of 12 regions he regularly visited. He then proceeded to identify all the challenges this team and region was facing. It was specific and deliberate (and probably a little difficult to hear)…and then he deftly transitioned to enumerating all the skills, talent, & resources that were present in the room (and region) to meet and overcome those same challenges. When I think of leaders with a powerful human touch, I often think of Walter.
An investor, mentor and advisor to the next generation of American food companies, former co-CEO of Whole Foods Market Walter Robb has a long and varied entrepreneurial history, ranging from natural food retailer to farmer to consultant. Robb joined Whole Foods Market in 1991 and in 2010 was named co-CEO along with John Mackey, at which time he joined the Whole Foods Market Board of Directors. In 2017, Robb transitioned his leadership focus to his role as a passionate advocate for greater food access in underserved communities, serving as Chairman of the Board for Whole Kids Foundation and Whole Cities Foundation. Robb also serves on the Board of Directors for Union Square Hospitality Group, The Container Store, FoodMaven and HeatGenie.