Walmart renews organic emphasis with Wild Oats

The Wild Oats brand will begin appearing on Walmart shelves this month as the retailer plans to offer 100 low priced organic dry grocery items.

The products are said to be priced at least 25% less than comparable organic items offered at other retailer, according to Walmart. Roughly 90% of the products will be branded as Wild Oats Marketplace Organic and include canned vegetables, spices and other dry grocery products. Walmart also plans to offer items branded simply as Wild Oats Marketplace which will include products with simple and real ingredients such as ready-to-prepare skillet meals. A third variation called Wild Oats Marketplace Original said to offer new and uniquely formulate items will be available later this year, according to Walmart.

“We know our customers are interested in purchasing organic products and, traditionally, those customers have had to pay more,” said Jack Sinclair, EVP 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.”

The Wild Oats brand, while familiar to those in the retail industry, will be less familiar to Walmart shoppers. Wild Oats was an operator of 110 natural and organic food stores until 1997 when it was acquired by Whole Foods. Entities controlled by investor Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies owned 18% of Wild Oats at the time. The Federal Trade Commission sought to block the deal, but by late 2007 Whole Food prevailed and the following year the Wild Oats banner vanished from the retail landscape as stores were converted to the Whole Food name. The Wild Oats name resurfaced in December 2011 when Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies created Wild Oats Marketing, LLC., which is led by CEO Tom Casey.

“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,” Casey said. “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.”

The introduction of the Wild Oats brand is reminiscent of a similar Organic push Walmart made in 2006. At the time, an expansion of organic offerings in the fresh department were supported with a national ad campaign featuring the tag line, “What will you bring to the table?”

That same year, Walmart touted the introduction of organic baby products such as infant formulas and Gerber brand food along with organic cotton apparel. Then, as now, the value proposition to shoppers was all about putting organic products within reach of cost conscious shoppers.

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