Whole Foods Market Announces Opening of Its First Gluten-Free Bakehouse

World's Leading Natural and Organic Supermarket Creates Bakery to Serve Growing Population With Special Gluten-Free Dietary Needs

RALEIGH, N.C., Oct 4, 2004 /PRNewswire-FirstCall via COMTEX/ -- Whole Foods Market(R) (WFMI) today announced the opening of the Whole Foods Market Gluten- Free Bakehouse, the company's first dedicated gluten-free baking facility.

Located in the Raleigh suburb of Morrisville, the new 8,000-square-foot facility will produce 27 products -- including breads, cookies, scones, biscuits, pizza crusts, whole pies and brownies -- to meet the needs of the increasing number of customers whose diets require gluten-free foods.

A gluten-free diet is medically necessary for individuals diagnosed with celiac disease, also known as celiac, nontropical sprue, celiac sprue, gluten intolerant enteropathy or gluten sensitive enteropathy. The disease causes a physical reaction to certain protein chains -- or glutens -- which are found in some common grains such as wheat, rye and barley. The reaction leads to changes in the small intestine which prevents absorption of nutrients from food.

"As someone with celiac disease, the opening of the Whole Foods Market Gluten-Free Bakehouse is truly a dream come true that ultimately makes life easier and better for our customers," said Lee Tobin, Gluten-Free Team Leader for Whole Foods Market.

A longtime Chapel Hill, N.C. Whole Foods Market team member, it was Tobin who developed the idea for the bakehouse after years of perfecting gluten-free recipes. "Whole Foods Market goes to extraordinary lengths to satisfy and delight our customers, and we are truly reaching out to this special population to offer flavorful, delicious foods -- everything from staples to indulgences -- they could not normally consume when made with traditional ingredients," said Tobin.

The gluten-free baked goods are now available at the five North Carolina Whole Foods Market stores in Cary, Raleigh, Durham, Winston-Salem and Chapel Hill. Distribution also includes Atlanta's three Whole Foods Market and three Harry's Farmers Market(R) stores, and the South Carolina store in the Charleston suburb Mt. Pleasant. Expanded availability for stores in Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland, south and west New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., is expected by November.

According to a new study by the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research in Baltimore, approximately one in 133 Americans may have celiac disease, but not all who have the condition show symptoms until they experience a significant life event such as surgery, viral infection, childbirth or severe emotional stress. Celiac disease is hereditary but treatable by eliminating all gluten from the diet, a lifetime requirement for most people with this condition.

In addition to the baked items now available from the Whole Foods Market Gluten-Free Bakehouse, Whole Foods Market offers a wide range of gluten-free products from several manufacturers, all of which meet the company's strict quality standards and are free of hydrogenated oils and artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives. A complete list of products is available at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com .

Whole Foods Market Team Member Makes Dream Facility a Reality

Located near Whole Foods Market's existing Wellspring Bakehouse, the Gluten-Free Bakehouse is isolated to ensure the integrity of the gluten-free baking environment to eliminate the threat of potential cross-contamination from wheat and other grains.

The Whole Foods Market Gluten-Free Bakehouse is the brainchild of Lee Tobin. After facing the dietary challenges of celiac disease for several months, he was inspired to start experimenting with recipes for gluten-free baked items for his own diet and for customers at the Chapel Hill Whole Foods Market. He spent years perfecting these recipes while working during off- hours; each session required a thorough pre-bake cleaning to ensure the integrity of the gluten-free recipes.

Through continued experimentation, Tobin first focused on developing five products: orange cranberry scones, chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins, pizza crusts and cream biscuits. As word of the new offering spread in North Carolina's Triangle area, new customers started shopping at Whole Foods Market and asking for more gluten-free creations. He next focused on gluten-free bread, and a satisfactory version took almost a year to develop. Gaining experience and confidence, Tobin's recipe box has grown tremendously.

Tobin's support for offering more gluten-free fare has grown within Whole Foods Market as well. His team of "volunteers" who helped with once-a-week gluten-free baking increased to include a regular crew of team members, some joining Whole Foods Market after their own celiac disease diagnosis.

"The new Whole Foods Market Gluten-Free Bakehouse will allow our stores to provide the widest selection of fresh gluten-free bakery items on the East Coast," said Ken Meyer, regional president for Whole Foods Market. "These products offer options for customers and their families who need gluten-free foods."

More details about Tobin, or additional resources about celiac disease, including recipes, facts and figures and links to organizations with expertise in this area are available at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com by searching any keyword.

About Whole Foods Market

Founded in 1980 in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market is the world's leading natural and organic foods supermarket and America's first national certified organic grocer. In fiscal year 2003, the company had sales of $3.1 billion and currently has more than 160 stores in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The Whole Foods Market motto, "Whole Foods, Whole People, Whole Planet"(TM) captures the company's mission to find success in customer satisfaction and wellness, employee excellence and happiness, enhanced shareholder value, community support, and environmental improvement. Whole Foods Market, Harry's Farmers Market(R), and Fresh & Wild(R) are trademarks owned by Whole Foods Market IP, LP. Whole Foods Market employs more than 30,000 team members and has been ranked for seven consecutive years as one of the "100 Best Companies to Work for" in America by Fortune magazine.

Whole Foods Market's South region is home to stores located throughout Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Whole Foods Market purchased Atlanta-based Harry's Farmers Market mega-stores, and a warehouse and distribution center in 2001. The company opened its first South Carolina location in the Charleston suburb Mt. Pleasant in May 2004, and will open a new store in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood during 2005.

SOURCE Whole Foods Market, Inc.

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