Wal-Mart’s organic push is a statement about the “strong movement afoot” as organics continue to become more and more mainstream, said Matt Seeley, vice president of marketing for The Nunes Co., Salinas, Calif.
“You can’t get more mainstream than Wal-Mart,” he said.
The move raises some questions, said Bill McCoy, owner of Better Life Produce Inc., Los Angeles.
Organic products are more expensive than conventional ones, he said.
“Does (Wal-Mart) have the market for those items? Will it be affordable to their clientele?” he asked. “That will be the key.”
No big effect
McCoy doesn’t think Wal-Mart’s push on the packaged or processed side will affect availability for fresh market product נat least for the near future.
“I don’t see too much of a problem at this point with it really affecting it in a big way,” he said. “Maybe in a couple of years from now if it grows to a huge proportion.”
McCoy believes growers will continue to maintain a diversified customer base and won’t put all their eggs in Wal-Mart’s basket.
Wal-Mart’s plan could give growers who are debating whether they should get into organics an incentive to take the plunge, said Earl Herrick, owner, president and founder of Earl’s Organic Produce, San Francisco.
He’s not too concerned that increased demand for organics from Wal-Mart will affect his company or the fresh market.
“Supply challenges are short lived,” he said. “The industry responds very quickly.”
Besides, he said, his company has longstanding relationships with suppliers, and he expects those relationships to continue.
Wal-Mart’s new direction could provide a new outlet for process-grade organic produce, said Dina Izzo, founder of Bludog Organic Produce Services, Ben Lomond, Calif.
“Tomato plants produce so much fruit, but only so much of it can go to the premium market,” he said. “The rest of it has to go somewhere.”
“It’s up to the farmer to figure out if it’s economically viable to sell into the process market,” he said. “Generally it is.”