The World Record You Probably Didn't Know Whole Foods Held

When it comes to world records, we tend to like the big ones. Records like the world's tallest man, the oldest person to ever live, or the longest line of human mattress dominoes remain popular because they stir the most curious corners of our imaginations (via Guinness World Records). If you can think of a record, chances are it's somewhere in Guinness' back catalog. Considering this, it may still come as something of a surprise to find out that one of the world's most iconic grocery store chains held a world record many probably didn't know existed.

The world record held by Whole Foods is admittedly — perhaps fittingly — a mouthful to say. The grocery chain once held the Guinness World Record title for most Parmigiano Reggiano wheels simultaneously cracked. It's a record they first won in 2008 — and reclaimed in 2013 (via Whole Foods Market News). Though it may seem somewhat silly, can you think of another grocery store chain that would bother to prove just how much cheese they can crack? Well, there's one, but we'll get to that. The record was more than just Whole Foods proving that they could do so. Rather, it was a prime example of company spirit and the professionalism of Whole Foods cheesemongers put on display before the world.

Setting high standards

A little can go a long way when it comes to parmesan cheese. Adding some extra on your caesar salad or your risotto or having it hot and bubbling atop au gratin potatoes can really elevate a dish. Basically, there isn't a lot that parmesan cheese cannot make better. So you could see why Whole Foods would want to put themselves front and center in records concerning Parmigiano Reggiano.

When it comes to standards of food quality, Whole Foods sets some of the highest of any grocery store chain. They ban no less than 230 food ingredients and source sustainably caught seafood and meat raised without antibiotics. Maintaining these standards is highly important to Whole Foods, especially when they are in the business of selling a product with ingredients that are legally protected. According to Forbes, authentic Parmigiano Reggiano can only be made with three ingredients: milk sourced only from the Parma region, salt, and rennet. By law, that is it. So, what better way to show your support for sourcing authentic, high-quality ingredients than with a large display of cheese cracking?

A cracking record

Let's talk about the record itself. Whole Foods has broken the record of cracking wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano twice and lost it twice. The inaugural record-breaking, which was recorded in 2008, showed that 176 stores simultaneously cracked over 300 wheels of cheese. The record was then broken by Canadian-based Loblaw Companies Ltd. in 2012 when they cracked 378 wheels across 200 stores. Not to be outdone, Whole Foods rebounded in 2013 to smash the record with 426 wheels cracked in stores in the U.S., U.K., and Canada (via Whole Foods Market News). 

When clocks hit 3 p.m. EST, Whole Foods cheesemongers began cracking away at the 85-pound wheels of Parmigiano, which is no easy task. Based on a video Whole Foods produced, cracking parmesan is a labor-intensive process in which the cheese wheels are scored and sliced evenly in half (via YouTube). The task can take as long as 30 minutes, though during the record-breaking event some were able to do it in under a minute. Unfortunately for Whole Foods, it no longer holds this title. It was reclaimed a year later by the Loblaw Companies when they cracked 1,209 wheels, per Guinness World Records. Regardless, this enjoyable, quirky achievement held by Whole Foods, for however brief a time, is a testament to the company's dedication to standards and quality products.