Update: In a December 2015 interview with My Statesman, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said that the Asparagus Water scandal led the company to start a crisis response team. “Instead of waiting for the executive team to talk everything through and decide what our response is going to be, we essentially deputized a small group of people to be right on it, so we can respond more timely,” Mackey said. “Part of our problem was not responding quick enough. Media is so 24/7, if you are couple days behind, then you might as well be a couple years behind.”
Asparagus Water: bad for Whole Foods’ stock, good for creating jobs on the brand new Whole Foods Crisis Team.
On a Monday morning jaunt to my local Whole Foods, in between feeling up organic peaches and loading my cart with 365 brand peanut butter, I happened upon these in the refrigerated produce section:
The grocery store, which is already on the chopping block for unfairly jacking up their prices, was selling bottles of water with three stalks of asparagus in them for an astronomical $6 bucks. Naturally I snapped a photo and shared it to both my Instagram and Facebook pages—because even as someone who lives in L.A. and experiences health food trends like kale soft-serve and Swole Cakes on the reg, this struck me as ridiculous. Tap water, after all, is free, and an entire bundle of asparagus from Whole Foods costs around $5 on Instacart. In fact, I was half-sure it was a joke (hence my caption on the photo). My image has since been picked up by news outlets across the country—Eater, The Hollywood Reporter, LAist, Mashable, People, Huffington Post, Salon, the Atlanta Journal Constitution—and even by Yahoo! UK, who offered up a cheeky riff on the product: “Be right back, just off to shove some parsnips in a bottle of Ballygowan and sell it for €7.50.” Unsurprisingly, the Internet has freaked out accordingly.
I may be restless but at least I’m not buy-a-$6-bottle-of-whole-foods-asparagus-water restless. — claudia martin (@cloudypianos) August 4, 2015
Whole Foods is selling bottles of water with asparagus stalks in it for $6. This is how Rome fell.
— Eric Martin (@EricMarten) August 3, 2015
I live among the people who would buy asparagus water at whole foods tbh. — kyla the worst (@fifthstarter) August 3, 2015
If any of you ever catch me buying a $6 bottle of “asparagus water” at Whole Foods – or anywhere – you are free to punch me on sight.
— Mark Schofield (@MarkSchofield) August 3, 2015
for $5.99, that asparagus water from Whole Foods better be straight from God’s tears — Omar Munoz (@rvinman_) August 3, 2015
While it’s cool to have gifted social media users with their fodder du jour, I’m not thrilled about perpetuating the stereotype that L.A. is indeed a city of people who might actually buy into something like asparagus water (whether literally or figuratively). Thankfully, Whole Foods seems to have realized the error of their ways, offering the following explanation to outlets:
“We appreciate you bringing this to our attention. We looked into this right away and found that this item was being carried in just one of our stores in California. It was meant to be water with the essence of vegetables and/or mushrooms to be used as broth (similar to a bone broth), which are typically made over a long period of time soaking in water. The product was made incorrectly and has since been removed from the one store where it was carried.”
Asparagus Water: No longer on our shelves, but always in our hearts.