Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s April announcement that Wild Oats-branded organic food items are coming to Wal-Mart could be a shot in the arm for the organic category and probably won’t have a significant impact on availability for the fresh category, grower-shippers and industry experts say.
Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart said Wild Oats was relaunching its brand, offering “a more affordable price point” on products covering a broad variety of categories — from salsa and pasta sauce to quinoa and chicken broth.
Shoppers will save 25% or more when they buy Wild Oats products rather than national brand organic products, Wal-Mart spokesmen said.
“We know our customers are interested in purchasing organic products and, traditionally, those customers have had to pay more,” Jack Sinclair, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president of grocery, said in a news release. “We are changing that and creating a new price position for organic groceries that increases access.”
“Our availability at Wal-Mart will allow us to finally pass along scalable savings directly to consumers,” Wild Oats chief executive officer Tom Casey said in the release.
The line will include nearly 100 products, including, for example, Wild Oats Marketplace Organic tomato paste selling at 58 cents for 6 ounces versus a comparable retail price of 98 cents — a difference of 41%.
Signal to producers
Wal-Mart’s decision to join other retailers in the organic marketplace “is good news for shoppers whose appetite for healthy organic food is stronger than ever,” said Cathy Calfo, executive director and chief executive officer of Santa Cruz-based California Certified Organic Farmers.
“It is also a signal to agricultural policy makers that we need to be serious about scaling up organic production to meet growing demand,” she said.
Industry members say it will be up to growers to determine how they will meet any increased demand for organic produce.
“It places increased demand on an already limited market,” said Kevin Weaver, director of sales and new business development for Global Organics, Sarasota, Fla.
Although Wal-Mart’s decision will boost demand for organic products for processing, there still is “incredible demand for fresh product,” he said.
“Growers will look to see where they can get the most bang for their buck.”