Wild Oats Markets Inc., the health food stores that were rival to Whole Foods (and eventually purchased by Whole Foods in 2007) may relaunch this year with the help of Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle. So, if Wild Oats comes roaring back into the organic market, will the competition help lower your food prices at competing markets like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and The Fresh Market?
Whether your food prices will get lower depends on whether or not Wild Oats’ relaunch is successful. According to The Los Angeles Times, Wild Oats is poised to open some time in 2013 with the help of Burkle’s Yucaipa companies. Most likely, that includes the purchase of Fresh & Easy market locations, which are being sold by Tesco, the British parent company. Wild Oats would use some or all of the 200 Fresh & Easy stores in California, Arizona and Nevada as a foundation to relaunch.
Burkle was Wild Oats’ largest stockholder at the time of its 2007 sale to Whole Foods Market. The Wild Oats company originally launched in 1987 in Boulder, Colo. Wild Oats had 110 stores in 24 states and Canada at the time of the buyout. The antitrust battle over the buyout meant the licensee rights to Wild Oats were sold to food distributor Luberski Inc. in 2010, while the physical stores were divided among buyers including Kroger, Gelson’s and Trader Joe’s.
Burkle’s company also owns A&P and Pathmark grocery brands. According to The Los Angeles Times, analysts believe Burkle may convert some of the A&P and Pathmark stores to Wild Oats Markets as well. A&P and Pathmark stores, which also operate under other names including Super Fresh and Food Emporium, number around 320 stores. If added to the 200-plus Fresh & Easy markets, Burkle could eventually convert more than 500 stores into Wild Oats stores. There are 471 Trader Joe’s stores in the United States, more than 340 Whole Foods stores globally and 129 Fresh Market stores in the U.S.
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