Enough already: pick on someone bigger than Whole Foods, FTC.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Jan 5, 2009
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Okay, I gotta agree with the below gentleman’s post, at this point, more than a year into FTC’s hassling of Whole Foods for buying Wild Oats. Let. It. Go, and let’s get back to (triple bottomline) business.

I previously wrote on the government’s crazy attempt to prevent the merger of organic food sellers Whole Foods and Wild Oats (“Whole Phooey on Antimonopoly Action,” http://www.progress.org/2007/fold513.htm). The Federal Trade Commission claims that Whole Foods dominates the natural foods industry, even though they only have had 15 percent of that market. Moreover, many supermarkets also sell organically grown and “natural” foods, and Whole Foods is a tiny part of the overall grocery business.

I buy groceries at Whole Foods because I am willing to spend a little more to eat healthy food, and the store I go to has a great salad bar. But I also buy at other food stores that are closer to where I live. Safeway and other grocery stores sell some organic produce and compete with Whole Foods. It would be absurd to say that Whole Foods store dominates the healthy food business in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I live.


A year and a half later, even after losing its case in court, even after a judge allowed the merger, the FTC has still not given up its anti-trust action against Whole Foods. At a time when the economy is depressed and people are shifting their buying to less expensive stores such as Wal-Mart, the federal government is still inflicting costs on Whole Foods and distracting its management from concentrating on its food business...read the rest.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


9 Responses to “Enough already: pick on someone bigger than Whole Foods, FTC.”

  1. Ryan says:

    I have to disagree with Waylon on this one. Look at Boulder, we now have 4 Whole Foods (including Ideal Market) and the co-op is gone. Where is the locally-owned health food store?! I would much rather buy (truly) locally instead of supporting CEOs in Texas. Whole Foods is quickly taking over the country and it’s rather scary. All corporations are scary. I want ROOTS!

    I don’t work for corporations, but it would be nice to work at a health food store. Plus, the selection is going downhill because all the grocery stores are owned by the same company.

    Granted, its better than shopping at an (un)Safeway, but I’m giving Whole Foods way too much of my money when I would rather support local hippies and mom-and-pops.

  2. admin says:

    But the FTC isn’t protecting coops…they’re basically protecting Safeway and King Soopers and the like from competition. Whole Foods has 15% of the eco market, far from ‘taking over.’ And they do a decent job promoting a ton of small eco companies, like Justin’s Nut Butter (sometimes great in that they offer loans, sometimes horrible in that they can crush a young company if they price them out or don’t shelve ’em).

    Your answer in Boulder is Farmer’s Market, which is huge and awesome (though sadly in need of a Winter home). The Boulder Co-op, where I served on the Board for a time, was woefully incompetent and died of natural causes, no pun intended—not merely because of competition.

    That said, I wholly agree with the gist of what you’re saying—whenever you can, buy local and independent and in so doing protect ecosystem and corporate diversity.

  3. anna gee says:

    The grass is always greener Ryan….

    At least Wholefoods has an important message and supports the kind of businesses we need to be supporting. Wholefoods carries a ton of small indie company products and a Wholefoods in Ontario just made their first sample order from my eco/ethical business which just comes to show that yes all big business has to be somewhat corporate in order to grow and make money but the fact that they will put my products on their shelves is really cool. I mean come on, we cannot always be a perfect world where everyone buys local all the time and we all pat each other on the back for making our own beer and jam, in this day and age it is pretty much impossible. I do support local business of course but we do not live in the 18th century anymore.

    Also, a lot of communities do not have local grocers that sell organic, where I live (in da boonies) we have a limited amount of stuff we can buy (usually about 2-3 meters of shelf space dedicated to organic products and that’s it. How about a huge store packed with them? I like the sound of that.

  4. admin says:

    Amen, Anna. That said, the pendulum swinging to far either direction ain’t great…we do need to shop local whenever possible environmentally and economically, both. They say a local conventional apple is far more environmentally friendly overall (though not better for you) than an organic apple from far away, for exp—shipping by boat and trucking is not so good…the avg meal comes from 1500 miles away in the US right now. That’s a lot of gas.

  5. anna gee says:

    balance is huge! But if we are going to have big super chains (and we will) we may as well have ethical ones that sell as much local as possible Maybe even have a set-up with the local farmers and specialize in local produce and meat.

    Doesn’t Wholefoods sell mostly domestic products? I guess though, if Cali oranges are going to Boston that is not too good!

    I do have to admit that I love me a really large expensive genetically engineered artichoke sometimes.

  6. Ryan says:

    I’m glad we’re having such a nice discussion in this forum, its really making me think.

    Local products are good, but the idealist in me would also rather see the business and storefront owned by local people, and that is where my gripes with Whole Foods are coming into play. I can’t knock what they are doing, its all good, but I want there to remain room for local retailers as well.

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