In a move sure to stir up the sector, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has debuted Wild Oats, a line featuring low-cost organic food products. The move represents a partnership between Wal-Mart and Wild Oats, a preexisting brand, which will see around 100 products hit the shelves of every Walmart store that sells groceries.
About 90% of the Wild Oats offerings, also available through the Wal-Mart Web site, will be USDA certified organic, meaning they contain at least 95% organic ingredients. The store is touting a 25% average savings for organic Wild Oats products over other organic brands already on its shelves. For instance, Wild Oats Marketplace Organic Dark Red Kidney Beans, a 15-oz canned offering, costs $0.88 on walmart.com. Every organic Wild Oats item listed online was out of stock days after the announcement, presumably due to consumer demand.
Critics have inevitably begun questioning the impact of this maneuver on the organic marketplace, and how the store is achieving such low prices. The obvious answer is that Wal-Mart’s buying power and ability to ensure demand are allowing Wild Oats to secure favorable terms with organic manufacturers. As if in response to the uneasy reaction, a Wild Oats blog post shortly after the announcement stated, “Organic isn’t about scale, it’s about adhering to the principles of producing food without synthetic chemicals, and with a respect for sustaining the land and water used to grow that food.”
Prior to this rollout, Walmart stores already offered hundreds of organic products from other brands.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, June 2014 (online 5/2/14)