Retail

Walmart’s Organic Reorientation

Walmart is saying goodbye to its Wild Oats organic food brand.

The end of Wild Oats marks the winding down of what The Wall Street Journal called a “complicated deal” between Walmart and the private-equity firm Yucaipa Cos. that owns and operates Wild Oats. The products will disappear from Walmart shelves in coming months, they added.

Instead of that single supplier deal, Walmart is looking to add more fresh produce to its shelves and more organic variations to its own store brand, Great Value.

Some have been critical of the move.

“[It’s] an odd step to take when we know they are trying to increase private-label penetration and trying to target the higher-income consumer,” said Laura Kennedy, principal analyst at Kantar Retail, a research and consulting firm.

Kennedy also noted that price was likely a factor, and if Walmart was consistently “losing money to a middleman, well, this is not a time Walmart wants to be losing anything.”

In recent months, Walmart has made a greater effort to push organic food sales.

“[Healthier food] is not our affluent-customer strategy, its broad-based strategy, but it’s a key piece to being relevant with that customer base,” Walmart Chief Merchandising Officer Steve Bratspies said in a November interview.

While some Wild Oats products did well — the pasta sauce was particularly popular — the brand had growth issues due to lack of wide availability.

When Walmart first signed on with the brand, the move got big play since the Wild Oats organics were being offered at Walmart for about 25 percent of the standard high prices seen elsewhere.

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