Remember Wild Oats, the Whole Foods competitor of the 1990s? It's back as a brand in Walmart, as the nation’s largest grocer announced a major initiative to bring affordable organics to its increasingly grocery-oriented stores.
Walmart on April 10 announced an agreement to carry Wild Oats organic food items at "a new, more affordable price point on quality products covering a broad variety of categories – from salsa and pasta sauce to quinoa and chicken broth," said the retailer. "Customers will save 25 percent or more when comparing Wild Oats to national brand organic products."
The umbrella brand, which will begin appearing this summer, will feature three categories:
- Wild Oats Marketplace Organic, a line that adheres to USDA guidelines for organic certification will include "everything from canned vegetables (15 oz.) at 88 cents to a full range of spices such as paprika, curry powder and ground cinnamon (2 oz.) starting at $2.48," the announcement said. Organic items will represent nearly 90 percent of the Wild Oats offering.
- Wild Oats Marketplace will feature "products with simple and real ingredients such as ready-to-prepare skillet meals at $1.50."
- Wild Oats Marketplace Originals will be "new and uniquely formulated items," although not available until later this year.
“We know our customers are interested in purchasing organic products and, traditionally, those customers have had to pay more,” said Jack Sinclair, executive vice president of grocery at Walmart U.S. “We are changing that and creating a new price position for organic groceries that increases access. This is part of our ongoing effort to use our scale to deliver quality, affordable groceries to our customers.”
Walmart internal research found 91 percent of Walmart shoppers would consider purchasing products from an affordable organic brand at the retailer.
“By partnering with Walmart, Wild Oats is starting a movement that makes it easier than ever for customers to access affordable organic and natural products,” said Tom Casey, CEO of Wild Oats. “Our availability at Walmart will allow us to finally pass along scalable savings directly to consumers. We are reinvigorating our brand by bringing great-tasting Wild Oats products to more customers than ever before.”
Walmart and Wild Oats will introduce nearly 100 products as part of the line, removing the price premium associated with organic groceries. The two parties offered these examples:
- Organic Tomato Paste (6 oz.) – 58 cents vs. 98 cents
- Organic Chicken Broth (32 oz.) – $1.98 vs. 3.47
- Organic Cinnamon Applesauce Cups (24 oz.) – $1.98 vs. $2.78
- Organic Tomato Sauce (15 oz.) – 88 cents vs. $1.38
(Prices comparisons were provided by Walmart and based on 26 nationally branded organic products available at Walmart stores in April.)
The Wild Oats product assortment will vary by store.
Walmart claims more than 4,000 stores across the nation selling groceries, including fresh produce, dairy, meat and packaged foods. In addition to growing its organic product offerings, the retailer is expanding its assortment in categories including yogurt, produce, deli and bakery.
Wild Oats Markets was founded in 1987 in Boulder, Colo. It grew to become the nation's second-largest natural and organic foods chain and had 110 outlets across 24 states as recently as 2007, when it was bought by Whole Foods Market. Forbes reports the Federal Trade Commission forced Whole Foods to divest its holdings in 2009, and Wild Oats’ stores were shuttered and its brand name shelved until now.
Wild Oats Marketing LLC was formed by The Yucaipa Cos. in December 2011 to bring back the brand in products only. An investment firm, Yucaipa is chaired by Ron Burkle, who was the majority shareholder in Wild Oats Markets when it was bought by Whole Foods. Yucaipa has a history of buying and consolidating grocery chains.