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Whole Foods Market Distribution Center

Austin, TX-based Whole Foods Market Inc. is recording rising sales and booming profits as it continues to expand its global reach. The company opened five new stores last quarter, grew its footprint in the United Kingdom by opening its first store in Scotland Nov. 16, and has plans for future expansion in the United States and abroad.

In the fourth quarter of 2011, Whole Foods sales rose 12 percent over 2010 to $2.4 billion. Profits rose 31 percent year over year in the quarter ended Sept. 25, hitting $75.5 million, compared to $57.5 million during the same period last year. Per-share earnings of the publicly traded company were up 26 percent.

Comparable store sales increased 8.7 percent during the fourth quarter; identical store sales rose 8.4 percent.

Whole Foods was founded in 1978 and first began expanding in Texas in 1984. The company opened 11 stores in the last six months and recently signed leases on nine new locations averaging 32,100 square feet, which will open in fiscal 2012 or later. Whole Foods now operates 316 stores internationally totaling approximately 12 million square feet.

There are now a half-dozen stores in the United Kingdom (five in England) with the Nov. 16 opening of the Whole Foods in Giffnock, Scotland, near Glasgow in a renovated Safeway location. More than 400 items, including oysters from the Firth of Clyde and smoked salmon from Oban, are being sourced within Scotland.

The company has a long-standing policy of not talking with the trade media, but Whole Foods Market UK Vice President David Doctorow said in a press release, “We are incredibly excited to be opening in Scotland and bringing with us a new way of presenting and experiencing food. Over 400 products have been sourced from within Scotland, which collectively showcase some of the best artisan producers from the length and breadth of the country.”

Whole Foods is known for its environmentally friendly practices, and in 2007 it placed third on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s list of Top 25 Green Power Partners.

Earlier this month, the company was recognized by the EPA for its efforts as one of the nation’s top two winners (the other was Phoenix-based Sprouts) in the government’s GreenChill Partnership.

While Sprouts won the EPA’s top award for achieving the lowest rate of corporate-wide refrigerant emissions out of all participating GreenChill supermarket companies, Whole Foods was recognized for having the most significant chain-wide reduction in emissions rates from the previous year.

To qualify for the GreenChill Partnership, chains must invest in more environmentally friendly refrigerants, reduce the amount of refrigerant used, eliminate leaks, and adopt green refrigeration technologies and environmental best practices. More than 7,300 stores belong to the partnership.