The People vs. Whole Foods


Is some vast left-wing conspiracy sticking it to the liberals where it knows it'll hurt them most—their organic-chow-loving bellies? Slate certainly seems to think so.

Let's back up a little, first. Whole Foods, which needs no introduction, is planning to merge with Wild Oats Market's natural foods chain, creating a company worth $6.8 billion a year. But the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department's antitrust division—the watchdogs which ensure that mergers don't harm consumers by reducing competition—are wagging their fingers, warning that the merger would "tend to create a monopoly in the operation of premium natural and organic supermarkets."

How does a retailer that controls an estimated 10 percent of a market and is competing with much larger players, such as Wal-mart and Costco, which are also entering the organics biz, become a monopolistic threat? queries the Los Angeles TimesSlate is more pointed with its protest, noting that the agencies have approved nearly every other proposed deal to date:

If the nation's largest hog producer buys the second-largest hog producer? OK. Telecommunications giants SBC and AT&T; want to merge? No problem. Giant supermarket company Albertson's and giant supermarket company SuperValu get together? You got it.

But when Whole Foods, the extremely successful, bobo-friendly, high-end, blue-state organic grocery chain and Wild Oats, the less successful, bobo-friendly, high-end, blue-state organic grocery chain, say they want to merge, the answer is no.

The FTC will see the Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods and Boulder, Colo.'s Wild Oats in court on July 31; the commission will be presenting oral arguments in its preliminary injunction hearing rejecting the merger of the two companies. :: Slate and The Los Angeles Times

See also: :: TreeHugger Picks: Whole Foods In the News, :: Organic vs Local at Whole Foods, and :: Reader's Digest Names Whole Foods as "America's 100 Best"