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Shared Disdain

2007-08-16 12:34:47.928837+00 by petronius 4 comments

In the ongoing antitrust investigation of Whole Foods' proposed acquisition of the rival Wild Oats chain, various Whole Foods corporate documents were supoenaed by the FTC. These were to be part of the public record, and those involving trade secrets and WF strategies were to be heavily redacted. However, the FTC accidently released a fully readable version of the documents. They corrected the mistake quickly, but not before AP downloaded a non-redacted copy. Now the cat is out of the bag.

The documents show that WF will probably close a lot of WO stores to insure the profitability of the WF outlets; no surprise there. What is interesting is that WF insists that suppliers agree not to sell directly to Wal-Mart stores. They must go through distributors,which increases Wal-Mart's costs. It is fascinating that Whole Foods and Wal-Mart have suppliers in common. I imagine the news will horrify patrons of both establishments: Wal-Mart customers will see their favorite store dealing with a bunch of Bolshevik hippies, while Whole Foods aficianados will be appalled with any connection to the hill-billy proles who haunt the world's largest retailer.

[ related topics: Food Current Events Consumerism and advertising ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-08-16 14:16:46.546695+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think I've mentioned before that an "aha" moment for Charlene was seeing the Sysco truck making a delivery at our local "independent" natural foods place and realizing that, yes, the spring mix did come from the same conglomerate that it did at the grocery store (this was before we'd read Omnivore's Dilemma[Wiki] ).

(Oh, and just to note that I was running through the RSS reader this morning, saw this, and thought "that should be a Flutterby entry", and then saw that indeed it was. Love it when that happens!)

#Comment Re: made: 2007-08-16 16:12:30.281275+00 by: petronius

Many years ago I heard a guy from Proctor & Gamble say that Tide, Dash, All and Trend laundry detergents were exactly the same products, just in different packages. The more heavily advertised brands cost more, but there were different market segments they were aimed at. It used to be that you only saw Trend in the Hispanic groceries. Now they sell brands popular in Mexico, probably also made by P&G, and probably in the same factory in Cleveland. My mother, by the way, swore by Dash.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-08-16 17:48:41.05448+00 by: Dan Lyke

Yeah, the Snapper vs Wal*Mart article and my own recent experiences with power tools have once again blurred some of those brand line issues.

This is also a reasonable place to trot out that note that when Earthbound Farms was first pitching the mixed spring mix greens packages to CostCo, CostCo asked them to drop the "organic" from the label. The spring mix is cheapest go grow organically, so it was still organic, CostCo just saw their customers as not beeing that yuppie.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-08-19 23:50:20.636395+00 by: ebradway

My read of the history of P&G is that they acquired different companies making similar products and had them basically "fight it out" - very different from prior business thought which would have been to consolidate.

My landlady is a private-brand manager for Wild Oats. She works out the relationships between the suppliers and Wild Oats. These suppliers are usually local-Boulder companies. Their WO-branded goat cheese is made by Haystack Mountain - just down the road from me. Their organic milk is Horizon - which is from Aurora, CO. Of course, Horizon also sells to Wal-Mart. Or rather, Wal-Mart is Horizon's largest customer.

I think it's been common-knowledge that Wal-Mart has been moving into the organic/gourmet foods with a vengence lately. Their store in Aurora actually features natural lighting throughout and a parking lot made from recycled materials. (check the cover story of the new F@stCompany)

On a more local scale, again, the Boulder papers clued in on the redacted statement about Whole Foods anticipating losing $190K/week if the new Wild Oats flagship store were to open in the new 29th Street Shopping Center (also home to the Wild Oats Home Office and the Apple Store). The only Whole Foods in Boulder is about 1/8th from this new WO flagship which was supposed to open last Fall. WO currently has 5-6 stores in Boulder.