Whole Foods is famously the only nation’s only grocery chain to be “certified organic.” Even after its 2017 acquisition by Amazon, the retailer has continued to live up to its sustainable mission, ensuring organic integrity at every step of its supply chain from farm to store.
Whole Foods prioritizes quality and sustainability at a time when grocery has become increasingly commoditized. It should come as no surprise, then, that Whole Foods essential oils are no slouch in the quality and sustainability department.
What essential oils can you buy at Whole Foods?
While this review is about Whole Foods’s brand of essential oils, we’d be remiss if we didn’t discuss the full selection of essential oils available at Whole Foods itself.
For a company so rooted in sustainability and environmentalism, you might think Whole Foods would provide a deep assortment of sustainably-made essential oils. The reality might disappoint you, at least in terms of variety. Whole Foods sells just two brands of essential oils: Aura Cacia and Whole Foods Market (aka 365 Everyday Value), its private label brand.
We are big fans of Aura Cacia essential oils, and have already done a detailed writeup of the cooperative’s product selection, service, and quality standards. Overall Aura Cacia is an affordable, mission-driven brand of decently high quality. When you purchase Aura Cacia EOs, you’re buying more than a product, you’re buying a movement. Its business ethos is very much in line with Whole Foods’ mission of sustainability, so we’re not at all surprised to these great brands partnering.
Check out our full review of Aura Cacia essential oils here.
As mentioned, Whole Foods Market is the name of Whole Foods’ private label brand for essential oils and other products. You’ll likely also notice bottles bearing the retailer’s other private label names 365 Everyday Value (or simply, 365).
Most stores offer a mix of the two brands, and if we’re being honest. It seems a little haphazard. According to a brand analysis in Forbes, it appears Whole Foods may be moving to a single, unified private label brand called Whole Foods Market and retiring 365 altogether.
While Whole Foods hasn’t confirmed or denied this, a review of its recent marketing collateral indicates they are indeed emphasizing only the Whole Foods Market brand in their promotional materials.
Whatever brand(s) are available at your local Whole Foods, our analysis of the labeling and merchandising materials shows no difference between the two. For the purposes of this review, when we say “Whole Foods essential oils,” we’re referring to any essential oils branded Whole Foods Market, 365 Everyday Value, or simply 365.
Our Picks: The Best Whole Foods Essential Oils
When it comes to essential oils, forget everything you know about what things cost at Whole Foods. The retailer its patrons playfully refer to as “Whole Paycheck,” is notorious for its expensive grocery items.
This is mainly due to the fact that Whole Foods sells only organic produce and mostly organic products. There are a number of reasons for this, but it boils down to the fact that the volume of organic food production is still relatively small when compared to conventional foods. The farming industry has been built around conventional, non-organic agriculture, so prices are likely to stay this way until demand reaches a level that forces farmers to convert the majority of their operations to organics. If you want all the details on what goes into the prices of organics, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has a detailed accounting of the specific costs that make organic products more expensive than conventional ones.
All of this is to say that much of the “sticker shock” of Whole Foods has to do with the fact that most of the products you buy there are three times more expensive than they would be if you’d bought the non-organic alternatives from a conventional grocery store.
But buying essential oils is not like buying oranges or bananas. The essential oils category is already dominated by premium brands at premium price points. Whole Foods essential oils are, by comparison not all that expensive.
To get a sense for how the top essential oil brands compare in terms of price, we look at the price per mL of Lavender Oil, the most popular and commonly used essential oil fragrance. Specifically for our analysis, we compared the Whole Foods Market Bulgarian Lavender Essential Oil, 1 fl oz (30mL) to similarly sized alternatives across the top brands.
Believe it or not, Whole Foods essential oils are among the least expensive brands on the market today. Their low price point puts them into direct competition with budget brand NOW Foods, with a slightly higher quality product that makes essential oils more accessible to more people.
Whole Foods doesn’t offer a very wide selection of essential oils. And because every store offers a different assortment of oils, it can be hard to nail down the retailer’s full selection.
We scoured the inventories of a handful of stores from different parts of the country to compile this list of Whole Foods essential oils. Let us know in the comments if you see anything we’ve missed. We want to be complete!
Currently, it sells just 25 single origin essential oils and 4 blends under its private label brand name.
Competitive brands typically have a much wider variety of single origin oils, blends, and bundled kits sourced from all around the world. In this regard, Whole Foods’ strategy appears to cater primarily to new users of essential oils with less sophisticated use cases.
Whole Foods Market-Brand Essential Oils
Whole Foods’ eponymous Whole Foods Market brand is reserved for its 1 fl oz and 0.5 fl oz bottles. These are by far the most common size of essential oils and given their small size relative to the 365 brand, they are somewhat more expensive. Still, though, you’ll find these bottles to be far more affordable than their premium counterparts.
As of this writing, there are 29 single-origin essential oils and 2 blends available under the Whole Foods Market brand:
- Texas Cedarwood
- Bulgarian Lavender
- Tea Tree
- Sweet Orange
- Fresh Ginger
- Black Pepper
- Clove Bud
- Ylang Ylang
- Cinnamon Leaf
- Clary Sage
- Jasmine Absolute
- Bedtime Blend
- Life Blend
365-Brand Essential Oils
As discussed above, Whole Foods’ 365 brand is a volume option for those looking to maximize the price they’re paying per mL of essential oils.
All 365 brand oils come in 2 fl oz (60 mL) bottles and are priced at an extremely competitive rate. As of this writing, Whole Foods is only assorting single-origin oils in this larger size:
Great packaging is simple, informative, and attractive. Essential oils have an almost endless range of use cases and attribute information. At the same time, oils tend to come in very small bottles, providing little label space to articulate these uses and benefits.
In this way, the challenge EO makers have is to surface useful information in a way that is both consumable and doesn’t clutter the label. It isn’t an easy challenge, but certain brands like Aura Cacia (also sold at Whole Foods) have come up with unique solutions via peel-off labels.
As mentioned above, Whole Foods has two different private label brands it applies to its essential oils.
Whole Foods Market brand essential oils are packaged both simply and attractively. Their labels have a uniform design that emphasizes the name of the essential oil contained within. Each bottle also includes a color-coded bar with a word describing the feeling or use case for which the essence inside is most commonly used.
These labels aren’t perfect, and there is plenty of overlap, but for someone just getting started with essential oils, Whole Foods’ brand bottles make it much easier to select an essential oil at a glance.
365 brand essential oils have decidedly less effective packaging. Despite receiving a recent update, the design for 365 brand essential oils remains dated and unattractive when compared to more modern alternatives. Each bottle label comes in stark white framed by illustrations of the source plant for each bottle.
On the other hand, the added label space afforded by the larger bottle provides more space for information on benefits, use cases, and tips and tricks.
To the left of the main label on each bottle of 365 brand essential oils, detailed instructions are provided for three core use cases: body mist (or diffusion), household use (e.g. in a cleaning solution), and skin use. Each of these areas provides a recipe and instructions for how and in what amounts the essential oil should be mixed with other agents to support a given use case.
Overall, we’re reasonably happy with the labels for both Whole Foods Market and 365. Neither are as detailed or clever as the finely-crafted inner-outer label on Aura Cacia essential oils. Still, they each work with the space they have to provide packaging that gives you the information you need at a glance to decide which oil to select for a given occasion.
If you’re looking for an essential oil to display in your house, you might want to consider a more premium brand with packaging that de-emphasizes the brand logo and places the priority on the contents within.
Whole Foods sources its essential oils from more than 20 countries all over the world and imports them to the US for bottling.
The company is relatively quiet on its sourcing practices. As far as we can tell, Whole Foods has cultivated a truly global supply chain of growers providing the ingredient plants for its essential oils.
On the downside, none of Whole Foods’ essential oils are organic, despite the retailer’s broader designation as the United States’ only organic national grocery chain. For a company so committed to organic and sustainable farming that its essential oils are, in fact, not organic feels very much off-brand for us.
Taking this into account alongside the fact that Whole Foods essential oils tend to be on the less-expensive side. It raises the question as to whether Whole Foods has cut corners on quality to provide such appealing prices. Our guess is that’s probably the case.
Testing for purity is an important aspect of quality assurance in the development of essential oils. Most EO providers will offer on their product detail page information about (and in many cases, the results of) the purity tests administered on the product that you are buying. Most of us non-scientists won’t be able to read these data sheets, but the fact of their being provided demonstrates a level of transparency and trust that brands who withhold this information cannot achieve.
Similar to Aura Cacia, Whole Foods essential oils do not provide testing information in any part of the purchase journey. This is to be expected as a less expensive brand in the scheme of things. Testing is costly and the incidence of non-authentic or substitute source ingredients is likely to be relatively low. Given this, some brands choose to skip this step, relying instead upon pricing, brand, and other factors to build trust with their customers.
As Whole Foods is one of these brands, it raises questions around the purity and authenticity of Whole Foods essential oils. While we do trust the Whole Foods brand to source only from high-quality growers, aberrations will always happen and by disclosing its testing process, Whole Foods has removed one final check that would prevent its line from being polluted by low quality, inauthentic oils.
Whole Foods offers an affordable, diverse assortment of essential oils ideal for those just getting started with aromatherapy. Whole Foods essential oils are sourced from a global network of growers with access to every corner of the world where ingredient plants thrive.
That said, Whole Foods provides little transparency into its quality assurance and testing procedures. We also had mixed experiences with some of their single-origin oils. Taking these two points together, we wonder if corners might be getting cut in certain instances in an effort to keep prices low. Unfortunately, all we have to go on is our firsthand experience and the individual experiences of other customers.
Of course, Whole Foods is a brand for which we have immense trust and respect. While their process might not be immune to allowing a low-quality oil to slip through every once in a while, we’ve got confidence that Whole Foods has put the right guardrails in place to ensure generally consistent quality.
Pricing5/5 AmazingPrice is really the area Whole Foods shines the most. Under both of WF's private labels, its essential oils are at the very bottom end of the pricing spectrum. This is really saying something given the company's global product sourcing and quality brand. If you're looking for value, this is your choice. Hands down.
Selection2/5 BadWe were a little disappointed that Whole Foods really only provides a few dozen single-origin oils and only two blends that we could find in our research. Most premium EO providers will have a vast array of blends and derivative products, but Whole Foods' limited assortment is indicative of the fact that it's not a product line that's very core to its business.
Packaging3/5 NeutralWhole Foods essential oils are packaged in simple and practical ways, designed to make it easy for you to highlight, at a glance, what's important to know about a given oil. That said, it's not the most information-rich or creatively-inspired packaging choice, so we can't give it higher marks in this category.
Sourcing3/5 NeutralWhole Foods sources its 38 essential oils from 20 different countries, a testament to its global scale of operations. That said, we were disappointed not to see organic options or any more detailed information on the growers themselves, something that other brands commonly provide.
Testing1/5 AwfullyWhile we don't doubt that Whole Foods is doing its homework on the testing front, we couldn't find any evidence of purity testing in their published materials or product packaging.
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