Whole Foods Market chief executive John Mackey has signalled a major shift in strategy by the organic retailer after declaring a number of its ranges “junk” food.

The famously outspoken Mackey said the group, which has struggled to turn a profit across its UK outlets, would more emphasis on health eating in a “reversal” of its “foodie philosophy”.

“We sell a bunch of junk,” he said at the launch of a new health eating initiative. “We’ve decided if Whole Foods doesn’t take a leadership role in educating people about a healthy diet, who the heck is going to do it?”

He added: “We have always had two philosophies that wrestle for our soul and for the souls of our customers. One is the foodie philosophy: that food is primarily about indulgence, about pleasure. The other part is that food is primarily to nourish us, to make us vital. Whole Foods has always had a synthesis of those two, but over a period of time, one or the other has tended to triumph.

“We are launching a reversal now.”