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Wal-Mart Goes Organic

Well, fancy that. Everyone’s favorite retailer is jumping on the organic food bandwagon in full force. In a company announcement in March 2006, a spokesperson stated (and I’m paraphrasing here) that Wal-Mart’s intention is not to become a health food store, but to make organic food accessible (and affordable) to the masses. Interestingly enough—and news to me—Wal-Mart is #1 when it comes to sales of organic milk, and is indeed the nation’s largest grocery retailer (really?).

I also read that Safeway, one of Wal-Mart’s biggest competitors in the grocery business is going organic as well. Not completely of course, but look for boxes of organic cereals alongside the shredded wheat and rice crispies instead of in their own “natural foods” section of the store.

Organic foods have gone mainstream for sure. No one should be surprised at this however. According to the Organic Consumers Association, the market for natural and organic foods has increased by about 20% a year for the past 15 years. So, as you can see, natural and organic foods are a growth industry poised to reap big profits for retailers.

What does this mean for the organic food industry as a whole? Obviously with a giant like Wal-Mart selling organic foods, there will be an increase in demand for these products. Will this be a good thing for the smaller organic farmers? I certainly hope so. On the other hand, it may simply mean that the organic food industry will continue in the direction it’s already headed in, that of “big business”.

Further reading: Is Organic Produce Really the Best Choice?

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