PL Buyer Cover Story: Organic Outreach
By Jill Rivkin
Through special arrangement, we offer this excerpt from PLBuyer’s recent cover article for discussion on RetailWire. Click to view the entire article,
Having already established roots in the natural and organic market, Wild Oats Markets is broadening its store brand reach. The chain is pushing its private label in its own stores
while moving them into traditional supermarkets, such as Pathmark, Price Chopper and Ahold businesses – Stop & Shop, Giant and Peapod.
David Young, senior director of Wild Oats corporate brands, said, “We know that Whole Foods has dramatically increased the size and number of its stores. So how are we going
to compete? We’re going to compete two different ways: new stores and with our brand. We have found that over the past two years this brand has resonated within the grocery industry
and garnered a lot of attention.”
Over the past two years, the Wild Oats brand has proven it has legs outside its retail stores. In the Chicagoland market, the Wild Oats brand currently is the No. 1 selling brand
sold through Peapod. Approximately 300 Wild Oats natural and organic store brand products are available through the online grocer.
Since mid-September, Peapod shoppers in Washington, D.C. also have had the opportunity to buy Wild Oats items, with more than 120 items available thus far.
The Peapod venture offers Wild Oats access to a larger customer base and helps build brand awareness in markets with only a few stores or untapped potential. Chicago, for example,
is home to only two brick-and-mortar Wild Oats stores. The deal with Peapod helps Wild Oats set a foundation to potentially open more locations around Chicago because the retailer
is building brand equity.
In Washington, D.C., there are no Wild Oats stores – yet – but a demographic indexing particularly high for interest in natural and organic was a solid starting point for Wild
Oats to build brand equity through Peapod sales there.
Though only in the early stages of development, web retailer Amazon.com has ventured into selling groceries, and Wild Oats also has a partnership to sell Wild Oats-branded items
through Amazon.com’s system.
Wild Oats executives talk gingerly about additional opportunities for the Wild Oats brands beyond their stores and the Internet.
“We have been contacted by several retailers domestically and internationally wanting to talk to us about accessing the Wild Oats brand,” said Mr. Young. “They don’t have their
own program, they don’t understand the industry entirely, and it would take them years to develop what we have to offer them today.”
Mr. Young says they are considering partnering with these retailers in markets where Wild Oats does not have a presence and where a retailer has the appropriate demographics.
“We’re taking a very cautious approach and being very careful with what we do,” he added. “But I think we have a real opportunity to potentially grow this program significantly.”
Discussion Question: What is your assessment of where Wild Oats is headed with its store brands inside its own locations and in other retailers’ stores?