The Walmartification Of The Organic Food Industry

Infographic of Private Label Brands within the Organic Food Industry

ogranic industry structure private brands
click to expand image

As mentioned on the last page, the introduction of private label brands has been a real game changer for the “traditional” food retailers as it allows them to expand brand loyalty into the organic food sector of the business and re-brand themselves as more than just a peddler of fruits & veg. In fact, in Canada, mega supermarket corp Loblaws is highlighting their commitment to organic and local foods as part of their branding effort. Stores are staffed with a nutritionist who will advise customers on how to make healthier purchases…providing education, recipes and even helping them shop.

More proof that the organic food slice of industry is being taken very seriously by mainstream food producers and retailers. Even as the pie grows to include new products, producers and sellers, the large mainstream operations are grabbing a larger and larger portion of that pie…leading us to the question:

Q.  If WalMart, Whole Foods and Loblaws are winning the organic food war, who is losing?

A.  The hippies who run (or used to run) organic food cooperatives are losing (have lost???). In 1982, there were 28 consumer cooperative distributors shipping organics to independent grocers and health food stores all across America. By 2008, there was just 1.

organic food industry coopmap

As a kid, I remember going with my Mom to the health food store to help her rummage through the bulk bins and the organic produce that was being sold next to health food books and supplements. The vibe in these places was soooooo different from today’s organic supermarkets.

Maybe it’s just me being nostalgic, but I kind of miss the old hippy lady who would chat with my Mom about the benefits of nutritional yeast and wheat germ…as opposed to strolling through the giant potato chip aisle at my local Whole Foods. Sure, the quantity of organic food offerings has blown up…I’m just not so sure about the quality.


I want to thank Dr. Philip Howard for all of this great info. The purpose of this post is not to disparage any of the players involved in growing, distributing or selling of organic food. My goal is to raise awareness in consumers to the fact that as the organic food industry grew, it has changed. The whale has swallowed the minnow. Organic is now a marketing term. And the practices that endeared organic food to the early adopters may becoming endangered. Reference


  1. Walmart….. yup. On one hand, it’s bringing to the forefront the need for more organic farming practices to happen. That we’re way over-doing it with the pesticides and the factory farms.

    The problem is, as with anything sold at Walmart, is that they drive down the prices so low, that no one will make a profit except Walmart. Especially not family farms. Especially not any of the middle men. Ultimately, the quality of the product gets degraded too much.

    Have you read “The Walmart Effect”? I recommend.

  2. My concern is that big companies like Clorox –!OpenDocument

    or Nestle will attempt to “greenwash” their public image.

    Bread = bad, Organic bread = good
    Bleach = bad, Green cleaners = good

    good = $$$

  3. hey thanks for the link. you put together all that info much better than i did. i just thought the graphic i posted was helpful. nice work. jesus would be proud 😉

  4. fabulous, important information. Thank you for the effort and intelligence. Time to get real with what we are putting in our mouths – it’s buyer beware and now we know why, who, where and how much.

  5. Great charts on this page, thanks for sharing.

    To your point, additionally, some of the larger players are doing organic “lite”, delivering against the minimum requirements for organic.

    In Denmark, I believe they have digital disclosure, whereby all the information about the grower is on the barcode. If this were rigorously applied, it might help. But you could see the major player still lobbying in the background against this, or the labeling standards being compromised.

    I have an innate mistrust of the big industry players in organic food, and
    I try to support local organic farms, small players who I know face to face at the London markets.

    Patricia Libertini

  6. thanks for the very informative post on orangic food. i don’t shop at walmart and are they really starting to sell organic food? wow.. but still doesn’t change my mind about going there though. lol.

  7. Walmart could be my first choice for organic foods, but they don’t carry enough variety. I think it’s nice that they have pretty low prices on their selection, but it isn’t diverse enough. They could make a lot more money if they A. Hired more people to check you out, and B. had a better selection of organic foods. Kudos.
    Propane Burners

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