Wild Oats Markets

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Wild Oats Markets, Inc.
Traded as NASDAQ: OATS
Industry Grocery store, Health food store
Fate Acquired
Successor Whole Foods Market, Inc.
Founded 1987
Headquarters Boulder, Colorado
Key people
Gregory Mays, Chairman & (interim) CEO
Products Food, Organic food, Vitamins
Revenue $1.12 billion USD (2005)
Number of employees
Slogan Better Food. Pure & Simple.
Website http://wildoats.com

Wild Oats Markets was an operator of natural foods stores and farmers markets in North America. It was founded in 1987 and headquartered in Boulder, Colorado. The stores offered dry grocery, meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, frozen, prepared foods, bakery, vitamins and supplements, health and body care, and household items. As of early 2007, the company operated 110 stores in 24 states and British Columbia, Canada, and was the United States' second largest natural and organic foods chain.

On February 21, 2007, rival Whole Foods Market, Inc announced that it had agreed to acquire Wild Oats for an estimated $565 million. After an extensive regulatory battle with the FTC, a federal district court consented to the deal. Whole Foods officially completed the purchase on August 27, 2007. But on July 29, 2008, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the district court decision that allowed the merger. In a settlement on March 6, 2009, Whole Foods agreed to sell the name brand of Wild Oats, along with 32 of the company’s stores.[1] In 2010, Luberski Inc., a West Coast-based food distributor, purchased the Wild Oats brand and other intellectual property.


Wild Oats was co-founded in 1986 by Libby Cook and Mike Gilliland. They opened their first two stores in Boulder, Colorado followed by stores in Santa Fe, New Mexico and Denver, Colorado.

Wild Oats Markets acquired the 11-store Boulder-based Alfalfa's Markets chain in July 1996. Three Capers Community Market natural foods stores, located in British Columbia, were part of the Alfalfa's acquisition and have maintained the Capers name. In 1999, Wild Oats acquired several other chains, including 11 San Diego-based Henry's Marketplace stores (rebranded Henry's Farmers Market in 2004[citation needed]), the Nature's Northwest chain of stores in Portland, OR, and nine San Antonio-based Sun Harvest stores.

In 2001, Perry Odak who previously held executive positions at Ben & Jerry’s, became President and Chief Executive Officer of Wild Oats Markets. Odak resigned in October 2006 after he and the company were unable to reach an agreement for a new employment contract. Gregory Mays, Chairman of the Board, was named interim chief executive officer. Mays is a former chief financial officer of Ralphs Grocery Co.[2]

Wild Oats announced that it would close all five Henry's Farmers Market stores in Arizona on 16 December 2006, and would instead focus on the Wild Oats banner in that market.[3]

Partnership with Pathmark[edit]

Wild Oats Markets partnered with Pathmark Stores beginning in February 2007 when Pathmark added Wild Oats brand private-label goods to all of its 141 northeast US stores. About 150 different natural and organic products were included in the partnership, including specialty products such as imported Italian sodas, balsamic vinegar, organic fruit spreads and flatbread crackers.[4]

Proposed Sale to Whole Foods Market[edit]

On 21 February 2007, Whole Foods Market announced that it had agreed to acquire Wild Oats for an estimated $565 million.[5][6][7]

On 27 June 2007, the Federal Trade Commission issued an administrative complaint challenging the acquisition. According to the complaint, the FTC believed that the proposed transaction "would violate federal antitrust laws by eliminating the substantial competition between these two uniquely close competitors in the operation of premium natural and organic supermarkets nationwide" and contended that "if the transaction goes forward Whole Foods would have the ability to raise prices and reduce quality and services."[8] On July 29, 2008, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the district court's decision allowing the merger. The Court of Appeals ruled that "premium natural, and organic supermarkets" ("PNOS"), such as Whole Foods and Wild Oats, constitute a distinct submarket of all grocers. The court ruled that "mission driven" consumers (those with an emphasis on social and environmental responsibility) would be adversely affected by the merger because substantial evidence by the FTC showed that Whole Foods intended to raise prices after consummation of the merger.[9] In 2009, Whole Foods agreed to sell the Wild Oats chain.[10]

Store formats[edit]

Natural foods stores[edit]

The natural foods stores had an emphasis on natural and organic foods in an educational and vibrant setting. These stores generally ranged from 20,000 to 35,000 gross square feet.

  • Wild Oats Natural Marketplace: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Washington
  • Capers Community Market: British Columbia

Farmers' market stores[edit]

The farmers' market stores had an emphasis on farm-fresh produce, natural foods, vitamins and supplements in an authentic farmers' market setting. These stores generally ranged from 15,000 to 25,000 gross square feet.

  • Henry's Farmers Market: California - Purchased by Smart & Final in 2007
  • Sun Harvest: Texas - Purchased by Smart & Final in 2007[11]

Notable achievements[edit]

  • Supermarket News ranked Wild Oats No. 63 in the 2007 "Top 75 North American Food Retailers" based on 2006 fiscal year estimated sales of $1.2 billion.[12]
  • Wild Oats was included in Corporate Responsibility Officer (CRO) magazine’s annual “100 Best Corporate Citizens” list for 2007, ranking No. 59 out of 1,100 U.S. public companies surveyed.[13][14] The ranking is based on measures of corporate service to eight groups: shareholders, community, governance, diversity, employees, environment, human rights and product.
  • Wild Oats contributed to the success of Fair Trade bananas in its early days by committing to TransFair USA to replace the store's organic bananas with Fair Trade organic bananas. TransFair needed this commitment by a big retail-chain to start this business, because of needed economies of scale and turnover speed.[15]


  1. ^ "Whole Foods Market, Inc., and Wild Oats Markets, Inc.". Federal Trade Commission. January 23, 2009. Retrieved June 3, 2014. 
  2. ^ Wild Oats Markets, Inc. Names Gregory Mays Interim Chief Executive Officer, Wild Oats Markets, Inc., 25 October 2006.[dead link]
  3. ^ Wild Oats Markets Rationalises Store Portfolio, Closing 8 Stores in Under-Performing Locations, Wild Oats Markets, Inc., 14 November 2006.[dead link]
  4. ^ Pathmark Stores Introduce Hundreds of Wild Oats Brand Specialty Products, Wild Oats Markets, Inc., 6 February 2007.[dead link]
  5. ^ "Whole Foods to acquire Wild Oats". Austin Business Journal. 22 February 2007. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  6. ^ "Whole Foods to buy Wild Oats rival". Austin American-Statesman. 22 February 2007. [dead link]
  7. ^ "For Whole Foods, a natural decision". Austin American-Statesman. 23 February 2007. [dead link]
  8. ^ "FTC Issues Administrative Complaint Seeking to Block Whole Foods Market’s Acquisition of Wild Oats Markets" (Press release). Federal Trade Commission. 28 June 2007. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  9. ^ Federal Trade Commission v. Whole Foods Market, Inc., 07 DC Cir. 5276 (29 July 2008).
  10. ^ Reynolds, George W. (26 October 2009). Ethics in Information Technology (Third ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 189. ISBN 978-0538746229. 
  11. ^ Davies, Jennifer (3 October 2007). "Henry's bought by Smart & Final". San Diego Union-Tribune (utsandiego.com). Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  12. ^ 2007 "Top 75 North American Food Retailers". Supermarket News. 14 January 2007. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  13. ^ "100 Best Corporate Citizens 2007" (PDF). Corporate Responsibility Officer (thecro.com). January–February 2007. Retrieved 2014-03-27. 
  14. ^ "Wild Oats Named on '100 Best Corporate Citizens' List by Corporate Responsibility Officer Magazine" (Press release). Wild Oats Markets, Inc. 15 February 2007. [dead link]
  15. ^ Raynolds, Laura T.; Murray, Douglas L.; Wilkinson, John (26 May 2007). Fair Trade: The challenge of transforming globlization. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415772037. 

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