I N · T H I S · I S S U E
The Market Forces of Natural Food
Whole Foods buying Wild Oats? What’s up with that?
The news struck me in an odd way. On one hand, I lamented the loss of our local Wild Oats. And there seemed to be a healthy rivalry between Whole Foods with 191 stores and Wild Oats with 110 stores. Both painfully expensive, to be sure, but wonderful in their selections of healthy foods. My mouth literally waters in those stores.
On the other, I welcomed the economic market forces that are hard at work. Natural foods have become really big businesses. Let the competition run wild! Let free market forces prevail! There’s good news in store for us all: Consumer demand for whole foods will intensify the competition and prices will come down.
I remember fondly my college days at the Onion River Coop in Vermont and the Arcata Coop in California. We worked in those pioneering stores to maintain our membership discounts and our access to wholesome foods. Many EcoMotion Network News readers are actively involved in community supported agriculture (CSA) programs. All the while, the economic force behind the natural and organic food movement – the engine fueled by tens of millions of hungry stomachs -- is huge and contagious. Buying out Wild Oats cost Whole Foods $700 million. That’s a lot of organic broccoli!
So why did Whole Foods buy Wild Oats? Profits are down. Food market analysts claim that Whole Foods has been losing revenues and market share because other major markets like Kroger, Safeway, and SuperValu are now catching up. The market is in transformation. Whole Foods had clearly dominated the natural foods niche market. Now supermarkets across the country are selling natural and organic products too, and at lower cost. Even Wal-Mart is doubling its organic offerings.
Whole Foods is still unquestionably king of the hill. Since founded in 1980 it has acquired 18 retail companies. And it is working overtime to refine its business strategy. Its immediate step is to build market share by gobbling up its closest competitor. But in the longer term, Whole Foods will have to bring its prices down. Thank goodness. And we are all to be applauded for driving this change: From the earliest adopters paying hefty lifestyle and price premiums for natural foods, to half billion dollar buy-outs, more competition, battles for market share, and lower prices. “You Are What You Eat” may not be such an expensive mantra after all.
BANNING BULBS, PART TWO
EcoMotion Network News V10#20 reported on a California Assembly bill that seeks to ban the sale of incandescent light bulbs in California. Now the Australian government has proposed legislation to do the same thing, phasing out inefficient incandescent bulbs and reducing green house gas (GHG) emissions by 4 million tons by 2012. (Australia produced almost 565 million tons of greenhouse gases in 2004.) Prime Minister John Howard noted that, "Here's something practical that everybody will participate in." Fidel Castro launched a similar program two years ago, sending youth brigades into homes and switching out regular bulbs for energy-saving ones to help battle electrical blackouts around the island. Based on Castro’s success, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced his own program to save energy and has given away millions of incandescent bulbs in neighborhoods nationwide.
THE POWER OF THE INCREMENT
EcoMotion's Virginia Nicols bikes