Whole Foods Market is testing four prototype “Wellness Clubs,” stores that apply the exercise club model to food. For $119 and $45 a month, you get access to club services that teach you about healthy food and cooking and allow you 10% reduction on your Whole Foods Market purchases, which will defray much of the monthly fee. The concept supports and enhances the Whole Foods Market brand, which is all about having a passion for buying, preparing and enjoying healthy food that is natural and organic.

The Wellness Club has a host of services. A chef will teach you to prepare a dish such as mango quinoa porridge and tell you which ingredients to buy in the attached store, or how to cook kale, the new wonder food. Lifestyle evaluations are available. There are courses and lectures by medical doctors, a reference library, skill-building classes, support clubs and coaching. Shopping will be guided by having products that meet the club’s “code of health” and carry a Wellness Club seal of approval.

“The mission of the Wellness Club is to provide an inviting environment where members are empowered to make educated and positive lifestyle choices that promote their long-term health and well-being through coaching, delicious food and a supportive community,” according to a Whole Foods Market blog post.

CEO John Mackey explained, “Our purpose would be to educate people how to eat better to achieve the highest degree of their health potential.” Only Whole Foods Market has the brand, the retail presence and the supporting infrastructure to attempt this. It is so compatible with a firm that has a passion for healthy food and has involved like-minded customers. Will it work? Maybe, and maybe not.

It needs to attract enough people to a dramatically new concept to be viable. There is really no way to find out without trying it out. Customers’ prior opinions will be of limited value. A key will be whether it can deliver social and self-expressive benefits as well as functional benefits. But if it does prove to be viable, Whole Foods Market will have taken another giant step away from the crowd and will be able to leverage the concept online.

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