Wild Oats Markets

Wild Oats Marketing, LLC
Formerly called
Wild Oats Markets, Inc.
Industry Natural and organic food production
Founded 1987 (1987) in Boulder, Colorado
Founders Libby Cook
Mike Gilliland
Headquarters Boulder, Colorado
Area served
United States
Owner The Yucaipa Cos.
Website wildoats.com

Wild Oats Marketplace is a producer of Natural and organic foods distributed through partnerships in the United States. Founded in 1987 in Boulder, Colorado, it was originally a chain of natural foods stores operating throughout the Western and Southwestern United States. In 2007, it was purchased by Whole Foods Market, Inc, but an FTC objection resulted in a reversal of the purchase.[1] The company was bought by Luberski Inc. (d/b/a as Hidden Villa Ranch),[2] a West Coast-based food distributor, in 2010 who then sold it to The Yucaipa Cos. in 2012.[3]

Wild Oats currently produces and distributes various food products, including cereal, beverages, condiments, frozen and fresh items through partnerships with Walmart stores nationally and through Fresh & Easy stores in California, Nevada and Arizona.


Wild Oats was co-founded in 1986 by husband and wife team Mike Gilliland and Libby Cook in 1987 in Boulder, Colorado. Originally purchasing a convenience store, which they bought with cash advances on 17 credit cards and a second mortgage on Gilliland's mother's house, the pair decided to buy a natural foods market, Crystal Market, which they felt would prosper in health-conscious Boulder. The $300,000 purchase, completed in 1987, thrust the couple into an environment quite different from the junk-food focus of convenience stores, an environment that gradually persuaded Gilliland and Cook to become healthy eaters themselves. In that first store, Gilliland worked the counter, while Cook worked the deli. Soon, the couple had opened another natural foods store, on the south side of Boulder, called Wild Oats Community Market. As the Wild Oats business expanded, a holding company was formed, and Gilliland became chief executive officer and president, while Cook became vice-president and in-house attorney.[4]

By the end of 1991, Gilliland and Cook had opened two other Wild Oats stores in Colorado as well as two in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Another was opened in Albuquerque in early 1992.[5] The company had a stable base in the early 1990s that enabled it to take advantage of a boom in the consumption of natural and organic products. With $2 million in investor funds, Wild Oats expanded into Arizona and Missouri in 1992 and into California in 1993. With 650 employees and 1993 sales of $50 million, Wild Oats had become the third largest natural foods chain in the United States.[4]

Wild Oats Markets acquired their local competitor, the 11-store Boulder-based Alfalfa's Markets chain, in July 1996.[6] Three Capers Community Market natural foods stores, located in British Columbia, were part of the Alfalfa's acquisition and have maintained the Capers name. In 1999, Wild Oats acquired several other chains, including 11 San Diego-based Henry's Marketplace stores, the Nature's Northwest chain of stores in Portland, OR, and nine San Antonio-based Sun Harvest stores. Wild Oats announced that it would close all five Henry's Farmers Market stores in Arizona in December 2006, and would instead focus on the Wild Oats banner in that market.[7]

In 2001, Perry Odak who previously held executive positions at Ben & Jerry’s, became President and Chief Executive Officer of Wild Oats Markets. Odak resigned in October 2006 after he and the company were unable to reach an agreement for a new employment contract. Gregory Mays, Chairman of the Board, was named interim chief executive officer. Mays is a former chief financial officer of Ralphs Grocery Co.[8]


Pathmark stores

Wild Oats Markets partnered with Pathmark Stores beginning in February 2007 when Pathmark added Wild Oats brand private-label goods to all of its 141 northeast US stores. About 150 different natural and organic products were included in the partnership, including specialty products such as imported Italian sodas, balsamic vinegar, organic fruit spreads and flatbread crackers.[9]


After a partnership agreement by Yucaipa Cos., the relaunch of the branch occurred in April 2014 as an expansion of the organic selections at Walmart stores nationwide. Wild Oats-branded organic groceries, including salsa, pasta and sauce, canned tomatoes, coffee, chicken broth, spices and condiments, will be priced at least 25 percent lower than national brands according to Walmart spokeswoman Danit Marquardt. The products are a part of Walmart's strategy to "remove the premium that is associated with organic products."[3]

Fresh & Easy Markets

In February 2014, the brand returned to the Southern California-based chain as it reinvented itself as wholesome grocery store under supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, who purchased the struggling British concept on 2013. Cage-free eggs and four types of organic milk sporting the “Wild Oats Marketplace” label were sold in 167 stores at first, including 102 locations in Southern California. Brown eggs are equipped with “Just Laid” stickers on cartons and “hen laying” date stamps on each egg. The “Portlandia”-inspired move comes as more consumers demand transparency on food origin and animal welfare from grocers.[10]

Fresh & Easy began testing a new concept under the Wild Oats banner at a single store in Scottsdale, Arizona in February 2015. The 10,000 square feet (930 m2) store opened on February 6 and “...will help us garner insights and learnings about the [Wild Oats] brand and give customers even more options to shop for healthy convenience items," said a company spokesman. He said Fresh & Easy had no plans to put the Wild Oats name on any additional stores. Fresh & Easy decided to test the new Wild Oats concept in Scottsdale, the spokesman said, “because the original Wild Oats chain had a long history stores there and we felt consumers there would be excited to have us use it as a test market.” The test is open-ended, he added, with no specific timeframe. The store is formally called Wild Oats by Fresh & Easy.[11][12]

Proposed sale to Whole Foods Market

On February 21, 2007, Whole Foods Market announced that it had agreed to acquire Wild Oats for an estimated $565 million.[13]

On 27 June 2007, the Federal Trade Commission issued an administrative complaint challenging the acquisition. According to the complaint, the FTC believed that the proposed transaction "would violate federal antitrust laws by eliminating the substantial competition between these two uniquely close competitors in the operation of premium natural and organic supermarkets nationwide" and contended that "if the transaction goes forward Whole Foods would have the ability to raise prices and reduce quality and services."[14]

On July 29, 2008, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned the district court's decision allowing the merger. The Court of Appeals ruled that "premium natural, and organic supermarkets" ("PNOS"), such as Whole Foods and Wild Oats, constitute a distinct submarket of all grocers. The court ruled that "mission driven" consumers (those with an emphasis on social and environmental responsibility) would be adversely affected by the merger because substantial evidence by the FTC showed that Whole Foods intended to raise prices after consummation of the merger.(Federal Trade Commission v. Whole Foods Market, Inc., Et. Al., 07 FTC 5276 (D.C. App. 29 July 2008). In 2009, Whole Foods agreed to sell the Wild Oats chain.[15]

Notable achievements


  1. "Whole Foods Market, Inc., and Wild Oats Markets, Inc.". Federal Trade Commission. January 23, 2009. Retrieved June 3, 2014.
  2. "Wild Oats IP Under New Ownership With Luberski Inc.". Reuters. Market Wire. 24 June 2010. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  3. 1 2 Pankratz, Howard (9 April 2014). "Born-in-Boulder Wild Oats brand to relaunch in Walmart stores". The Denver Post. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  4. 1 2 "Wild Oats Markets, Inc. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Wild Oats Markets, Inc.". Reference for Business. Advameg, Inc. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  5. Billingsley, Eric (22 September 2002). "Wild Oats to expand in New Mexico market". Albuquerque Business First. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  6. "WILD OATS MERCHANDISE". Boulder History Museum. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  7. "Arizona's five Henry's Farmers Markets slated for closure". Phoenix Business Journal. American City Business Journals. 14 November 2006. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  8. "Wild Oats Markets, Inc. Names Gregory Mays Interim Chief Executive Officer". PR Newswire. PR Newswire Association LLC. 25 October 2006. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  9. "Pathmark Stores Introduce Hundreds of Wild Oats Brand Specialty Products". Business Wire. Berkshire Hathaway. 6 February 2007. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  10. Luna, Nancy (21 February 2014). "Wild Oats foods making comeback on Fresh & Easy shelves". Orange County Register. California. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  11. "wild oats by fresh & easy". Fresh & Easy. Fresh & Easy, LLC. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  12. Zwiebach, Elliot (11 February 2015). "Wild Oats banner returns at Fresh & Easy in Scottsdale". Supermarket News. Penton Media Food Group. Retrieved 27 February 2015.
  13. "Whole Foods to acquire Wild Oats". Austin Business Journal. 22 February 2007. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
  14. "FTC Issues Administrative Complaint Seeking to Block Whole Foods Market's Acquisition of Wild Oats Markets" (Press release). Federal Trade Commission. 28 June 2007. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
  15. Reynolds, George W. (2010). Ethics in Information Technology (3rd ed.). Boston, MA: Course Technology, Cengage Learning. p. 189. ISBN 9780538746229.
  16. 2007 "Top 75 North American Food Retailers" Check |url= value (help). Supermarket News. 14 January 2007. Retrieved 2014-03-27.(subscription required)
  17. "100 Best Corporate Citizens 2007" (PDF). Corporate Responsibility Officer. thecro.com. January–February 2007. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
  18. Raynolds, Laura T.; Murray, Douglas L.; Wilkinson, John (26 May 2007). Fair Trade: The challenge of transforming globalization. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415772037.
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