The largest natural food supermarket chain, Whole Foods Market, Austin, Texas will become the undisputed heavyweight in the natural and organic foods arena with its agreement to purchase is closest rival, Wild Oats. The deal would bring Whole Foods’ total store count to about 300 units, including several key regions where its presence is lacking–the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific Northwest and Florida.
Both Whole Foods Market and Wild Oats offer extensive in-store bakery programs in all of their stores. Company officials have not yet announced how the merger will effect the chains’ bakery offerings or management structure.
With increasing competition from large national chains moving into the once-niche organic foods market, Whole Foods officials describe the merger as a defensive counterstrike. “We’re competing in a highly competitive market,” said John Mackey, Whole Foods’ chairman, C.E.O and co-founder. “Safeway, Kroger, Supervalu and Wal-Mart are massive companies bigger than Whole Foods that are selling some of the same products.”