Whole Foods Market is differentiating its shopper experience by opening dedicated stores-within-a-store in partnership with mission-based brand Pacha Soap Co.

In May, the third Pacha store-within-a-Whole Foods opened at the grocer's Lakeview location in Chicago. The timing coincided with Mother's Day weekend and the partners tied in to the occasion by staging an in-store event inviting shoppers to paint "froth bombs" to give as gifts. 

Pacha, whose staff handled the event with assistance from Whole Foods, plans to stage such experiential events in the stores with its boutiques at least once every quarter, Pacha chief marketing officer Todd First told P2PI.

"We can do certain events in those stores that we may not be able to execute in a traditional chainwide event," First said. As an extension of its company mission, Pacha also plans on using those stores as bases for community outreach involving supplying soap to people in need and partnering with local organizations.

"Everything that Pacha does, the first thing is about the mission," First said.

Pacha slates a portion of profits to helping developing countries build water wells and educate children on sanitation. It also helps them set up small-scale soap shops, working directly with farmers who grow and produce the essential oils used in its soaps. The result is product comprising organic, fair-trade and environmentally sustainable ingredients that are used to create unique scents such as “pipe tobacco & coffee” and “dirty hippie.”

The company has been a Whole Foods supplier since 2014, when it benefitted from Whole Foods’ local producer loan program to launch a new liquid soap line exclusively at the grocer. In 2018, Whole Foods recognized Pacha as a global supplier of the year for pioneering experiential, natural bath and body care, and exceeding goals for growth by delivering an innovative assortment of products to the retailer’s shoppers.

Pacha continues bringing Whole Foods consumers innovative products, and in turn uses the stores-within-a-store to test new categories or items they may be working on to get feedback directly from shoppers. The brand tested salt blocks (as more convenient take on bulk bath salts) last year at its first store-within-a-Whole Foods — in downtown Denver near Union Station — before deciding to expand distribution globally. The sleep bath salt block made the grocer's inaugural list of top beauty and wellness trends for the year, unveiled in March in conjunction with “Beauty Week.”

"We like the [stores-within-a-store] because they give us the opportunity to one, test different products that we may be coming out with but two, it's a branding experience for us that allows us to show our entire portfolio in more of a 'private shopping space,' so it creates a lot of brand awareness and attraction," First says.

The second Pacha store-within-a-Whole Foods was included in the plans for Whole Foods' 500th store and flagship location in midtown Atlanta. Each of the three existing stores-within-a-store is unique in its design. The first location relies largely on table displays, the second incorporates custom wooden racks and shelves, and the third increases the use of wooden elements to really set the space apart as its own dedicated area. The partners are planning to open a fourth location in Nashville in 2020. 

"We start off with the regional Whole Body coordinators and we start doing renderings based on the space. We go through several renditions ... and settle on a look that's appropriate for that store and that space," First said of the joint process. "Each time we do one we learn how to do it a little bit better both visually and as far as shopping experience and how we merchandise the product, so it's an ongoing learning experience but I think it's been beneficial for both parties."

P2PI partnered with Field Agent to take a closer look at the most recently opened Pacha store-within-a-Whole Foods in Chicago. 

The location boasts a wood-finished structure — including columns, shelving and headers — that serves to clearly identify the Pacha store-within-a-store. Bold signage communicates that the brand doesn't use synthetic ingredients, is crafted in the U.S., does not test on animals and is made without parabens or sulfates.

Both bulk and pre-packaged items are available, displayed on shelves illuminated with custom lighting.

Boxes shoppers can fill with various Pacha products to create customized gift sets are incorporated throughout.

See the full gallery of photos from the store visit attached at right. And check out Field Agent's Endcaps & Insights for more photos, video, and insights from the world of retail.