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URL:  http://boards.fool.com/violation-of-quotcommitment-to-qualityquot-23522409.aspx

Subject:  Violation of "Commitment to Quality" Date:  1/7/2006  4:48 AM
Author:  Adamk0310 Number:  294 of 300

Hello, Fools.

I first posted this message on my personal blog. [1] As promised, I sent it to Wild Oats, and I'm now sharing it with the Fool community.


***Start***

Better Food. Pure and Simple.


The title of this blog is the slogan for Wild Oats Markets, Inc.

The following paragraph, taken from their "about us" webpage [2], outlines their standards:

"The Wild Oats commitment to quality is unparalleled in the grocery business. Using rigorous criteria based on scientific research, we ensure our stores feature a wide selection of products that are made naturally - without artificial flavors, colorings, preservatives or other synthetic additives. We feature products that contribute to your health and well-being and we partner with vendors that meet our environmental and social standards."

My most recent trip to a Wild Oats store, my local one in Superior, Colorado, confirmed that their so-called "commitment to quality" is pure BS. In at least two locations in the store, they had Kraft Miniature Marshmallows for sale. In short, carrying such a product is a gross violation of their "commitment to quality."

The nutrition facts label [3] of the product (if they can even be called that!) show that they contain (among other things):
-"Modified Cornstarch" (which has been chemically treated)
-"Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate" (a synthetic additive, prohibited by the "commitment to quality")
-"Artificial and Natural Flavor"
-"Artificial Color (includes Blue 1)" (and who knows what else?)

I asked Paul, a floor employee about why this product was being carried in Wild Oats, and I got rude answers including, "You wanna pay extra for natural marshmallows?" "A product isn't out here unless it's meant to be." "Go talk to the manager if you have any problems. He's right up there." Basically, the guy was a extremely unkind and unhelpful. He never bothered to look me in the eye.

Next, I spoke to Bradley, the store manager, who assured me that the marshmallows were only carried during the holidays, and not year-round. Translation: "We only violate our principles part of the time." He also told me that there was a demand for the product, and Wild Oats has chosen to carry these types of products to facilitate "one-stop shopping," so customers don't have to visit another store to get the products on their list. I see. So if customers started demanding Pop Rocks and Cinnamon Toast Crunch, they'd start carrying that, too? It's a possibility, as Wild Oats also carries Windex, Tide, and 409, which contain chemicals harmful to the environment. At least Bradley was willing to engage in an intelligent, rational conversation, and I thank him for that.

What's really happening here? Wild Oats has a dilemma. They can choose to take the high road and stay true to their principles. This option means that they cannot derive revenue from artificial food, even if their customers want to buy it. This is what they should be doing if they want to live up to their self-imposed "commitment to quality." Their other option is to sell out, abandon their principles (if only temporarily), and sell Kraft's artificial product, collecting revenue from it. Apparently, they have chosen the second option, which disappoints me.

So, time for a cost-benefit analysis. Will they collect more money from marshmallow sales than they will lose by alienating customers (like me) who once admired the company for their principles, and subsequently choose not to patronize a company that doesn't stick to its values?

I am sending a copy of this blog to Wild Oats, and I will not be making any more purchases there until they remedy this situation and attempt to regain my trust. I encourage you to do the same.

***end***

If the company chooses to blatantly disregard their own standards, how forthcoming do you think they'll be with their investors?

Disclosure: I do not own stock in OATS, but I sure wish I bought Whole Foods (WFMI) a couple years ago!

Thanks for reading.

-Adam


Links:
1. Personal Blog: http://blog.myspace.com/adamk0310
2. Wild Oats "About Us": www.wildoats.com/redesign/standards.php
3. Nutrition Facts: www.kraftfoods.com/main.aspx?s=product&m=product/Product_display&Site=1&Product=0069966076
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