Wal-Mart, Wild Oats unveiling
Lower-cost line of “Organic Foods”
By Anne D’Innocenzio ASSOCIATED PRESS
NEW YORK — Wal-Mart is using its massive size to drive down the price of organic-food items from tomato paste to chicken broth to make them more affordable for its low-income customers.
The world’s largest retailer and nation’s largest grocery seller said yesterday that it has teamed with Wild Oats to sell a new line of organic foods, starting this month, that’s at least 25 percent cheaper than the national organic brands it carries and in line with the prices of its branded non-organic alternatives. Wild Oats helped pioneer the organic food trend in the late 1980s but has largely disappeared from store shelves since 2007.
Wild Oats’ 6-ounce can of tomato paste, for example, is priced at 58 cents, compared with 98 cents for a national-brand organic version. And a 32-ounce can of chicken broth under Wild Oats is priced at $1.98, compared with the $3.47 for a national-brand alternative, according to the discounter’s survey of 26 nationally branded organic products available at Walmart.com .
- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is unveiling nearly 100 pantry items under the Wild Oats label over the next several months, adding to the 1,600 organic food items it already carries. It’s taking a cautious approach, planning to have them in about half of its 4,000 domestic namesake stores to make sure it can satisfy demand. The Bentonville, Ark., company will be the exclusive national retailer of Wild Oats.
- “We are removing the premium associated with organic groceries,” Jack Sinclair, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president of grocery, told reporters during a conference call this week.
Wal-Mart and other mainstream stores are trying to stake a bigger claim in the hot organic market as they see shoppers from all different income levels wanting to eat healthier. Analysts believe that Wal-Mart’s strategy could put more pressure on companies such as Whole Foods to lower prices. (yes, I believe that. . .JT)
- Sinclair declined to comment on how big Wal-Mart’s organic business is, but he says sales of organic food are growing more quickly than nearly every category of non-organic food items. Still, high prices have kept a lid on that growth.
Wal-Mart says that 42 percent of its customers surveyed in 2011 bought some organic or “natural” goods, according to outside research. According to its own survey, 91 percent of Walmart shoppers would consider purchasing products from an affordable organic brand at the store.
For Wild Oats, it’s a chance to revive its brand. Founded in Boulder, Colo., in 1987, Wild Oats operated 110 stores in 24 states and in Canada at its peak in early 2007. Whole Foods bought Wild Oats that year, but after an extensive regulatory battle, Whole Foods unloaded the chain in 2009, and the stores and its products disappeared. Private-equity firm Yucaipa Cos., which was the largest stakeholder of Wild Oats by the time the name was sold to Whole Foods, now owns the brand. Yucaipa is run by billionaire Ron Bu (so maybe we have to learn what makes Bu tick?)
There isn’t too much that can excite me more than this effort by a name I remember well. . . . Wild Oats! They were a premier natural food store here in the Columbus area which I very much enjoyed shopping in.. They sold out to Whole Foods which we all dearly love, but many still remember the specialness of Wild Oats. Life goes on, we adjust. Now the name emerges again in a kinda hard to understand maneuver. On the one hand – premier ‘Natural Foods Store’, really top drawer; and on the other hand – perhaps one of the largest retailers in America. . . because of the hard bargains it drives with its suppliers, known to squeeze all but the life blood out of them in order to provide those so-called cheap prices. How is that going to go over with “organic farmers’ whose very existence is a miracle what with the plight of all the GMO’s and their infernal contamination of crops, etc,., etc.,.
Organic farming is far more labor intensive, using only natural (old-fashioned) techniques. . . which is to say, no insecticides or, pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, but instead, the natural rotation of crops and tilling the old back into the soil to keep the soil and all its teeming life forms within it alive and vibrant. . . .that’s how fulvic acid comes about and survives, in turn, nourishing us with the nutrient nature intended.
Since one cannot sacrifice the manner in which organic farming takes place and still call it “ORGANIC” how will this happen? How does this remarkable savings come about? Believe me, I love the concept. I do. We need this desperately. Farmers are a special class of people who have never been paid enough. What they do is noble and hard and we need so many more of them. . .truly. Someone is going to have to explain how such a potentially diametrically opposite set of participants hopes to carry this off. The one upholds quality, purity and high standards while the other is driven solely by cost factors which will always overlook quality in favor of profit. So, #1) the need is there – most definitely. #2) these two participants are uniquely positioned to be able to carry this off. . . . . but will they? There is enough wealth and power in the Wal-Mart name/power structure to get it done, but is there the magnanimity of character to do it? If so,. . . . it would be a first! I’m hopeful,. . . . . but ya gotta show me. . . Jan)