Whole Foods, a monopolist?

Whole Foods recently struck a deal to purchase rival organic grocery Wild Oats. No big deal, right? It is a very big deal actually if you work for the Federal Trade Commission and you believe that consumers must be protected from a “monopoly” in organic grocery stores.
Leaving aside the debate over whether federal intervention to ensure competition in the organic food grocery sector is really a pressing national interest, I find the argument that the merger of these two companies is somehow “anticompetitive” quite unreasonable. If anything, the fact that Wild Oats has been losing money and yet was still able to find an interested purchaser implies that Whole Foods management sees ample room to grow the organics market and for new players to enter and expand their selections of organics.
In fact, prospects for growth and the obvious optimism expressed by Whole Foods might even spur other grocery chains like Kroger and Safeway to start doing even more in the organics sector…and where does Trader Joe’s fit in to the discussion? Aren’t they a competitor of Whole Foods?
The fact is that the grocery industry is highly competitive and (even after the purchase of Wild Oats) Whole Foods is a relatively small player, not a monopolist.
Hopefully the FTC will get a grip on reality before this gets tied up in court. Seems like another case of a bureaucracy looking for new dragons to slay when it might be better just to put down the sword.

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