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Big-box organics

(article, Kim Carlson)

Wal-Mart was all over the news last spring, when the company announced it would start selling organic foods. Today the mega-store is in the news again — but this time it's because organics at Wal-Mart haven't penned out. 

Businessweek_ reports that organic sales at Wal-Mart perhaps haven't been as brisk as hoped. Farmers who received big orders for organic produce last year haven't seen Wal-Mart return to buy more, or their sales were so lackluster, they pulled their products.

One reason, the article speculates, may be that the customer who wants the lowest price (the Wal-Mart base) may not be the organics food customer, for whom price isn't the bottom line:

bq(blue). In the case of organic foods, there also may be a disconnect between Wal-Mart's brand and the products it hopes to sell. The retailer's existing customers tend to be very price-conscious and may not be willing to pay a premium for organic foods.

Likewise, the story explains, people who want to buy organic foods are accustomed to shopping at Whole Foods or their local farmers market, and aren't going to switch to Wal-Mart.

For its part, Wal-Mart denies the failure of its organics plan, saying some stores carry more organic products than others, based on the discretion of local management. Says a spokesperson for the stores:

bq(blue). It has always been our goal for our locations to be 'stores of the community.'

I wonder if Wal-Mart organics are thriving in places that have fewer choices for shopping?

*Also on Culinate: More on organics at Wal-Mart, supermarket labeling trends, and a label controversy at Monsanto.