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Whole Oats? Wild Foods?  Whole Foods (2006 sales:$5.6 bill) is buying smaller competitor Wild Oats for $565 million, a move that will allow the company to “compete better with larger traditional grocers” at a time when their rate of sales growth has slowed in the face of increased competition from more organic, natural products from stores like Trader Joe’s, Safeway, and WalMart. Whole Foods also plans on cutting prices “on some products”; these decisions, according to the article’s talking investment head, are not moves “being made from a position of strength,” although stock prices are up. Whole Foods is based in Austin, Texas; Wild Oats in Boulder, Colorado.

Sure makes you think about the idea of eating local, not organic; it takes a lot of 365-brand tortilla chips to float constant double-digit sales growth. It also makes me suddenly think about the one-off “old-fashioned” health food stores of my youth, which someone mentioned the other day. Remember those? Remember that health food store smell? A kind of musty, carob-y, waxy, sweet, alfalfa haze . . . the columns of Dr. Bronner’s near the front, bulk foods tipped loudly into paper bags, my disappointment when the sunflower seeds–when nothing–had any salt on them … Sorry, way-back machine–yes, who would have guessed then?