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Wild Oats cuts Local Products from Shelves

Wild Oats is eliminating its contracts with local business, in favor of centralization of products through its headquarters in Boulder CO.
Firstly, I must say that this article was written by an independent investigator who came upon these bits of information independently and synthesized them and then checked up on the accuracy of my logic in some conversations. In no way did the people and small businesses reffered to give me any privledged information.

Wild Oats is a popular store in Portland. With a variety of locations and catering to the trendy eating habits of the middle-class left, the chain has grown far from its start in Boulder CO. Up to now, the chain has incorporated local products into its stores. Now, the word on the street is that that is about to change.

First, they downsized their pick-up crews. The people who drove the trucks to pick up the local goods were suddenly out of their jobs. For many this came as a big suprise. Many had been doing the job for more than a decade and had house mortgages and such resting on their income. This has been happening incrementally since Natures was bought out by the chain. Along with slowly fazing out contracts with local manufacturers, growers, and producers, Wild Oats also apparently has a fierce animosity for competition- it dropped one local organic produce distibuter's contract after learning that the distributer also sold goods to a local health food chain.

Now, Wild Oats is making it impossible for small local businesses to participate in the chain's distribution by demanding that products carry millions of dollars in insurance, that manufactueres deliver their goods to the stores, etc. It is all done in the coporate model of centralization. It is making its "health food" into an economy of scale: the more centralized and mass produced the product, the cheaper the production, and the cheaper the production, the larger the the profit margin. The larger the profit margin- the larger the chain.

Now, I'm sure this is not too suprising to anyone. It is, after all, capitalism's model. The gist of my article lies in this simple point: Wild Oats is profiting from an image of social and environmental responsibility. While it is very glossy and nice to look at, it is a facade. As people who genuinely care about what you eat and how it effects the environment and your community, it's your time to stop supporting Natures (it's overpriced anyways) and start supporting local small businesses!

Here's a thought for the small businesses too- I know that in other cities and towns across the country, small businesses have formed assosciations to build local power and give local people a choice in what they buy. These coalitions have taken great steps to fight the machines of megacapitalism and megagovernment , where it has been a threat to the health of the community.

As we see the strands of economy and society unravelling, it is a good time to start spending our few dollars with precision, and building strength in our material interactions locally. The homeless are invisible to the national chain, the unemployed are mere statistics. Its up to us to stand up for the interests of our community
Only shop at Wild Oats if you're going to lift! And be careful, employees don't seem to want to see you stealing, but don't implicate them!

Before you piss on the fruit 20.Jan.2004 22:02


Before you piss on the frruit remember Wild Oaks in SE donates to Food-Not-Bombs every week. Boycott but let Boulder, CO know you are doing it and way.

May be Corporate; Stil it's no Safeway 20.Jan.2004 23:15

Lefty Vegy

Yes Wild Oats is corporate behind the facade (they wouldn't hire me 'cause I admitted I'm anti-corporate). But they are still a far cry from the Safeways. As for the local business thing...well it's great to support them, but if you need quick food Wild Oats is the only real choice for non-Frankenfood.

Thats Strange 20.Jan.2004 23:39

Stand Up

Thats strange because I bought some Hood River apples and D'Anjou Pears. The Columbia Gorge orange juice and the Tofurkey Slices by Turtle Island in Hood River seemed local. The leeks I got for my soup said Ralph's Greenhouse in Washington and the Toby's salad dressing I got was from Eugene. Not to mention Portland's Best Bar-B-Que (which btw is mighty dang good gluten) and Washington grown mushrooms.
The bananas I bought though definitely were not local....but they were fair trade. Not just organic but certified fair trade.
Oh Yeah Nature's was not bought out...they were sold out!

Local alternatives? 21.Jan.2004 00:25


How does New Seasons compare to Wild Oats? How about Whole Foods? Can anyone suggest some alternatives? I'm aware of People's Co-op and several others, but any additional info is always appreciated.

Eat at a co-op 21.Jan.2004 07:41


Wild Oats are a for profit company. Shop at co-ops, for the most part, they are not for profit..

food not bombs 21.Jan.2004 08:42


It's true that several Wild Oats (ex natures) give large donations to Food not Bombs every week. But please don't forget that you also get hefty donations from local businesses, and that some of these are facing losing thier Wild Oats distribution. just a thought.

You say tomato, I say Tomaato 21.Jan.2004 09:27

family of four

This is important information to get out on the streets. Shifts in policy do need to be brought to the public's attention so we can hand write letters to Corporate headquarters. At the same time we do have choices as to where we shop. We are blessed in this town with some amazing food cooperatives and we are walking distance, in many parts of town, to farmers markets and driving distance to farms and orchards. It takes effort to create the bulk of our purchases local and off the corporate grid. BUT when it comes to needing a quart of soy milk at 8:30 pm, Oats is probably less damaging than the mego Kroger/Safeway chains.

ps. remember that the founders of New Seasons are the ones who sold out Natures to begin with.

Peanut 21.Jan.2004 10:08


That's why I encourage you to ask for a comet card at Wild Oats and let Boulder, CO know. By using the card they will understand it is someone who was in one of their stores, as opposed to someone not shopping there.

? 21.Jan.2004 11:04


If I may ask, what is a comet card?



a few random points:

- I would suggest for future articles that the author list the local food that has been shut out of the wild oats deal. I have no doubt this is true, but it is definitely not 100% true. Because there is still Higher Taste etc. Specifics would make this article more cedible. Additonally, Wild Oats gets their local produce from Pacific Coast, here in town.

- I work at a food co-op in portland. A lot of these "local" products (made in portland or near) are actually distributed through huge corporate natural foods distributors. Wild Oats uses one. That's where they get their turtle island, turtle mountain, lucky springrolls, and all those other things that seem local. It's made in portland or oregon, it gets shipped to a distributor, then back to portland. trust me. i know.

- and more food for thought, in case you think i am defending the evil Wild Oats: People, please check out your local co-op. Often, the produce and bulk prices are cheaper or comparable to Wild Oats and New Seasons. The grocery departments do struggle, because Wild Oats and New Seasons but get quadruple the volume discounts from their distributors. You'll find that by volunterring at Alberta or People's, or buying cases of food and splitting it with housemates is a great way to save money and support co-ops. Keep your money in the community. Be happy that your money is going to a living wage and benefits for co-op workers . ... instead of CEOs in Boulder, or the New Seasons SUV LAdd's Addition brigade.


Please list Co-Ops 21.Jan.2004 14:09


Can someone please share the details of where Portland Co-ops are located? Thank you!

for Harpyr 21.Jan.2004 14:39

pink emma

By context, I assume the writer who used the phrase "comet card" must have meant "comment card."

re: Please list Co-Ops 21.Jan.2004 17:14


Alberta coop is on the corner of NE 15th and Alberta, People's is located at 3029 SE 21st, and Food Front is at 2375 NW Thurman.

Changes Coming -- Not Here Yet 21.Jan.2004 19:07

Vegie Lover

To those who are saying, "I've seen plenty of local food there," go back and read what the author wrote:

"Up to now, the chain has incorporated local products into its stores. Now, the word on the street is that that is about to change."

"About the change" suggests that it has not yet changed but will. That means that if this report is true, of course there will still be local items on the shelves UNTIL the change.

For corporate, choose WHOLE FOODS maket, and here's why: 22.Jan.2004 01:12

choose compassion

They are attempting to use their power in the industry for good (let's hope they follow through on it). There's no compassionate farming of animals, but this is a better idea than factory farming, for sure:

Whole Foods Market to Create Humane Farming Standards
Viva! declares campaign moratorium

Austin, Tex. Whole Foods Market, as a result of negotiations with animal rights group Viva!USA, has pledged to totally transform the way animals are raised for its stores, prompting Viva!USA Director Lauren Ornelas, to place a moratorium on the group's two-year campaign against the corporation.

John Mackey, Whole Foods Market CEO, stated that "Viva! was instrumental in helping Whole Foods Market leadership come to understand the importance and necessity of making changes to animal production methodsóchanges that both eliminate cruelty and neglect, but also that will allow animals to do the things they would like to be doing. In addition to Whole Foods Market' s corporate commitment to raise the bar, my research on animal welfare issues while in dialogue with Ms. Ornelas, convinced me to personally become a vegan. I believe a vegan lifestyle is the most animal compassionate lifestyle possible."

Viva!USA director Lauren Ornelas stated, "My conversations with Mr. Mackey have convinced me that he is sincerely interested in improving conditions for farmed animals. The suffering endured by ducks and other farmed animals sold at grocery stores in the U.S. is heartbreaking, and we hope that Mr. Mackey and his company will be able to push the farming industry to make dramatic improvements."

As a company historically concerned with animal welfare, Whole Foods Market has informed Viva!USA of ambitious plans to take that concern to the next level by designing humane husbandry standards for farmed animals sold in the natural foods retailer's more than 145 stores (with annual sales of $3.2 billion). According to Mackey, ducks will be among the first animals benefiting from rigorous new policies on humane treatment. This has prompted Viva! to declare a moratorium on its two-year-old campaign to convince Whole Foods Market to stop doing business with farms
that abuse ducks such as Grimaud Farms.

According to Mackey, "Grimaud Farms has agreed to work with Whole Foods Market and animal welfare groups to implement new husbandry techniques. Whole Foods Market has told Grimaud that it will be necessary to cut formal ties with companies related to the production of foie gras as part of its commitment to animal compassionate standards and methods. Whole Foods Market estimates that it will take approximately one year for Grimaud to begin selling ducks produced with animal compassionate methods. If Grimaud is unwilling to implement animal compassionate standards and methods, then Whole Foods Market will seek alternative producers who will."

Viva!USA is part of an international organization with its USA headquarters based in California. To see more go to:  http://www.vivausa.org.

human animals exempt? 22.Jan.2004 02:15


Whore Foods exempts their workers from humane treatment. Ask anyone that has tried to start a union in one of their stores. Their profits go in part into the coffers of General Dynamics, a defense contractor that makes war toys. I guess the Iraqi citizens and others are also exempt from humane treatment.

I'd rather be a worker in a Whole Foods store who 22.Jan.2004 09:06

inform yourself

has the option of leaving, than a farmed animal who is shackled and abused for its entire life, and then led to slaughter--no choice at all (if you think that's an exaggeration, then read up about farming practices). If you don't think it's huge that Whole Foods is doing this, then your compassion for those who suffer far more than you ever will--the animals--is miniscule. Yes, "humane" to the humans is important, but what is happening to them at Whole Foods doesn't begin to compare with what is happening to the animals on farms, in terms of cruelty.

thanks peanut 22.Jan.2004 19:06

Michael b

I can see how eminent changes in wild oats buying policee could intimidate local buisineses that abruptly find themself in the precarious position of not bieng able to speak about matters they hope to negotiate.

To the writer from VIVA-
Please do not try and make us choose between compassion for animals and labor organizing. Justice for animals and social justice isn't a matter of either or. As a vegan of 4+ years I'm frustrated by your outright advocacy for this company. Both animal rights organizations and community based labor organizers would find themseves better served by creating viable alternatives to the corperate giants that perpetuate these problems. Reforming the current buisinesses is one thing. Replacing them with affordable, viable, JUST alternatives is better.

I agree with you Michael... 22.Jan.2004 21:58

Viva article poster

labor organizing must be done. I didn't like the outright dismissal of what Whole Foods is trying to do, just because they're not doing everything. They are having a bigger impact than any other corporate or other market on the treatment of food animals. That's something huge. Of course they must also transform their labor practices. But truthfully, humans always take care of themselves and worry about themselves first. Let's also think about and care about gains for animals--they are far more helpless than us. We humans act as though our needs and desires always come first, and if our gains aren't primary, then the whole thing is crap. Well, in this case, some gains for animals are being made, and the human organizing will come next.

Also, the reason why they have a chance at changing 22.Jan.2004 22:02

Viva article poster again

farming practices is because they are so huge. I've seen small markets, like Food Front, carry products like Tyson's chicken, because their consumers want cheap meats. Unfortunately consumers (even ones who buy free range meats and such) don't generally care enough to en masse to demand more humanely farmed animals. In this case the big corporation is using it's power for something good.

who are we to force cats to be vegan? 22.Jan.2004 23:24

Michael b

I was at the meeting hall at start when peoples members voted on wiether or not to carry free range meat at peoples. Tree Arrow was there on the same mission as I- to make sure that vegans had a voice at peoples.That was the last time I saw him. To me it seems that a community based democratic organization is an infinitly more fertile ground for change than a national organization. I recognize and in some regards respect the role that whole foods and its reformers have in bringing us a cornicopia of vegie foods, in developing the market for it. If I had a check for all the money that corperation ever made would I rather see it goto the community based social institutions. You betcha.
Personally I've spent some time trying to convince "animal rights actavists" to persue medical fruad- PEOPLE BIENG POISONED- PEOPLE BIENG TESTED ON- to undermine respect for the integrated (animal and human) system of medical oppression we have in this country. More than half of all pharmacuticals are taken off the market in the first year due to human medical complications. Yet somehow none of these lifestyle advocacy animal rights organizations can mount a PUBLIC campaign to trace that back to animal reaserch. Can't or wont?
Reaserch says:
"Dimatap boils kids brains."
animal rights advocates say:
"Help the animals first, human organizing will come next."

I was staying with an friend with Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. When I met a woman whose son had taken a newer medication, his body swelled up like a balloon he developed open sores on his skin and developed trouble with his eyesight. He didn't get better.

I gather his pain is infantesamile to some. Personally I believe that we must link social justice movements to end all oppression.


I absolutely don't agree that anti-vivsection groups have not 23.Jan.2004 00:30

Viva article poster

addressed the problem with animal testing FOR HUMANS. In fact, there are 2 main arguments to be made against vivisection (I know you know this): the uselessness of the results for humans, and the brutality towards the animals. I believe that anti-vivisection groups as a whole press both points strongly. Take a look at  http://www.ohsukillsprimates.com for a Portland site. It is hard to get the truth out there, though, and the vivisectionists fight it. One issue is that most activists are not scientists, and must use the work of others to advocate that position--but they do it. It's hard to get ANY animal rights/anti-vivisection/anti-pharmaceutical safety message out there--and any activist I know of would gladly put out the "it hurts humans" argument (and do)--but of course the media doesn't pick it up. It isn't through lack of trying on the activist's part, believe me.

My answer to the who are we to tell people to be vegans question would be about the same as who are we to tell people to not contribute to the brutality of children, say in the porn industry. Animals are suffering badly for our tastes--in this country that's generally the case, we don't NEED to eat meat here. Of course it wouldn't be effective to say it like that--and most of us grew up with meat so it's a new idea to many--but the point is that I want to stand in the way of brutality towards helpless creatures. That's an ethical responsibility. No one has an ethical right to have animals go through birth to death misery because they like the way that they taste. Of course they have a legal right to do so though.

Thanks for trying to represent a vegetarian viewpoint at the People's meeting.

Yes, all oppressions are connected, and we must fight to end them all, but perhaps most people refuse to even see the animals as worthy enough of the title oppressed--as if that label can only go towards humans. Using the "it hurts humans too" anti-vivisection argument will work primarily because people care more about their own species, than as a joining tactic of uniting the oppressions. If they thought it helped people but hurt animals (as most do now), most will not want to stop it. People tend to be chauvinistic and believe that "humans come first" in the same way that racists will say that "whites count for more"--and that's on this activist site too. Animal liberation is dragging way behind the other fights--unfortunately they can't speak (with words) for themselves.



i worked for wild oats for 4 years both as a clerk and dept. management

you wanna eat organic?

don't go to wild oats.

i question the follwoing based on what i saw there:
>integrity of the things they sell as organic, if you pay attention to what you're buying.

>they only carry about 40-50 local produce items while people's carrys over a hundred 100% organic (thanks neil)new seasons carries 113 local mostly organic, whole foods carries about 80 items. this is very telling.

>wages: wages were cut drastically starting in 2000 when the new ceo (perry odak) took over. today, the average worker at wo makes $7.5/hour

>hours: wo cut alloted hours to stores in order to force its salaried department management to pick up the slack, some work 60 hours per week with no overtime.

>full-time vs part-time: today wo boasts 60% part-time help, which allows them to deny benefits, health insurance and pay raises. nature's was over 80% full time, even whole foods is 75% full time.

>funny accounting: odak has saved his skin twice by cooking the books in 2002 and 2004. an article in the denver post exposed them with 4 other colorodo companies. proven!

>store closures: the beaverton location closed in may 2004 and the plan is to close the rest of the old natures stores. they have already dismantled the regional management staff. rumors have hillsdale and division closing next with laurelhurst and freemont on the choping blocks. they are "moving" the lko store and will close the old vancouver store eventually.

>the ceo salary stands at $550k/yr+ bonuses(100k in 2003) and he has 1.3 million shares of stock options that were loaned to him at 10 cents down and a clause in his contract forgives his almost $10 million loan if the stock price hits $20. two weeks ago the stock crashed by 40% from $13 down to $7.47 due to an 80% drop in profits from the year before.

>wild oats is far from natural/organic.

boycott them or eat bad vibes!

cincinati iww is organizing a picket accross the country, if you want to help the workers of wo join the boycott:  ogearth@earthlink.net