Sonoran University Honors Natural Food Market Pioneer

Sandy Gooch, Honorary Degree

Sonoran University to Honor Natural Food Market Pioneer During Commencement Ceremony

Sandy Gooch, known as the “Queen of Retailing,” to Receive Honorary Degree during Commencement Ceremony


December 14, 2023

Tempe, Ariz. Sonoran University of Health Sciences is excited to announce that it will present an honorary degree to Sandy Gooch, a pioneer in the natural food market space, during its commencement ceremony on Dec. 18.

In 1977, Gooch opened Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Food Store, the largest market of its kind in the country specializing in natural food and health-related items. She was also the first woman to develop a chain of supermarkets in America, with seven markets in the greater Los Angeles area. Gooch’s stores were among the first to carry products without harmful chemical additives,  preservative agents, artificial flavorings, artificial colorings, artificial sweeteners, refined white sugar, refined white flour, caffeine, chocolate, hydrogenated oil, isolated synthetic MSG, irradiation, bovine growth hormones, or GMOs using recombinant DNA technology.

After suffering a life-threatening reaction to a combination of commonly used food additives, Gooch found that the only way she could survive was to eliminate all additives from her diet. She experienced difficulty locating a wide variety of natural foods, which led her to start her business. Over the next sixteen years, she expanded her operation, opened larger stores, and developed a $90-million-a-year operation.

Having served on the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government since 2000, Gooch was appointed as the first secretary to its executive committee. The board is an international group of more than 100 women using their influence and resources to develop and empower women worldwide, support and recognize women as leaders, and encourage and support public policy positions that have a critical impact on women worldwide.

In September of 1993, Gooch sold her company to Whole Foods Markets, which is now owned by Amazon.

Today, Gooch is an advisor to GrowingGreat, a non-profit garden and nutrition education organization dedicated to inspiring children and adults to adopt healthy eating habits through classroom nutrition lessons, school gardens and community events.

She is a member of the IWF, a global organization, and has been since the 1980s, having attended conferences held all over the world including Tel Aviv, London, Paris, Stockholm, Rome, Toronto, Vancouver, Dublin, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Manhattan, Chicago, and most recently, Detroit.  The International Women’s Forum is an invitation-only network of the most accomplished women in the world that builds significant relationships between C-level women across countries and careers.

She is also on the board of Berri Organics, a beverage company that features organic electrolyte beverage brands, and Luminex, a nonprofit, free public art exhibition that sponsors projected art installations in an urban site-specific environment in downtown Los Angeles.

To watch the ceremony, please visit the live stream of our Fall 2023 Commencement Ceremony.



About Sonoran University of Health Sciences

Formerly known as Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, Sonoran University shapes a healthier future through the healing power of nature. The University has three pillars: education, community engagement, and research. Sonoran University of Health Sciences shapes a healthier future by supporting students as they train to excel as healthcare professionals, by enhancing the health and well-being of our patients and communities, and by discovering effective treatments for humanity grounded in the healing power of nature.

Sonoran University’s Community Health Program is funded through donations from Sage Foundation for Health.
Sage Foundation is an Arizona Qualified Charitable Organization (QCO). Tax credit donations can be made at