Photographed by Julia Robbs.
I have to admit: I'm not a big Walmart fan. Call me crazy, but that whole violating workers' rights thing kind of rubs me the wrong way. And, of course, the company has spent the past few decades putting mom-and-pop shops out of business across the country by undercutting prices on everything from brownie mix to big-screen TVs. But, a new move from the retail giant uses those same controversial tactics, only for a — dare I say — positive outcome?
Starting this month, Walmart will begin offering 100 organic products from Wild Oats, a processed-organic-foods line, at prices at least 25% lower than anywhere else in the country. If these initial products sell well, Walmart says it will consider branching out to fresh options, such as meat and produce. And, the company has good reason to be hopeful: According to internal research, 91% of Walmart's customers say they would buy organic products if they were more affordable.
Previously, of course, one of the biggest counterpoints to the organic movement was that high prices made organic options inaccessible to a large number of Americans. Places like Whole Foods have made a killing with the organic craze, without much competition from mainstream markets, who can't afford to lower their prices to compete. Not surprisingly, pundits see this move as a big blow to Whole Foods, envisioning a mass exodus of loyalists as customers realize they can get their organic on for less elsewhere. But, as has happened over and over again in the past, experts expect that driving down the prices on organic goods will have the biggest effect on small health-food stores, who will be forced to compete or be driven out of business.
If this grand organic experiment succeeds, it could signal a huge change in the way Americans eat. Currently, Walmart sells 30% of the groceries in this country; they also make up 50% of its sales. If even a fraction of those sales were organic items, it would mean that more Americans have access to food raised without pesticides or hormones. And, at the end of the day, isn't that a good thing? (The New York Times)