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    Wild Oats Goes Online With Peapod, Refreshes Pet Departments

    CHICAGO - Wild Oats Markets, Inc., a national natural and organic foods retailer, and Peapod, Ahold USA's Internet grocer, are now offering more than 200 Wild Oats branded to Chicago-area shoppers on the Peapod online grocery site.

    CHICAGO - Wild Oats Markets, Inc., a national natural and organic foods retailer, and Peapod, Ahold USA's Internet grocer, are now offering more than 200 Wild Oats branded to Chicago-area shoppers on the Peapod online grocery site.

    "So far there are approximately 225 products online, and we expect it will be 300 by the end of the year as we introduce additional private label products," Sonja Tuitele, Wild Oats' director of corporate communications, told Progressive Grocer.

    The selection of products ranges from cage-free eggs, orange juice, and organic milk to all-natural cookies, imported Italian sodas, and environmentally friendly paper goods. With only two stores in the area -- Wild Oats Natural Marketplace in Hinsdale and People's Market in Evanston -- this partnership provides Chicagoans who hunger for more Wild Oats natural and organics one-click access to convenient home delivery of such products. This is Wild Oats' first foray into online food retailing.

    According to Tuitele, Dayville, Conn.-based United Natural Foods, Inc., a wholesale distributor to the organic and natural foods industry, will handle distribution to Peapod, which will deliver the products to the end consumer.

    "The No. 1 request we get from shoppers is that they want us to put a Wild Oats store in their neighborhood," noted Perry Odak, Wild Oats' president and c.e.o.. "People will drive great distances to shop at our stores because they know they can find products -- particularly our own Wild Oats-branded products -- that aren't available elsewhere. With Peapod we can deliver our products right to customers' doorsteps."

    In addition to meeting consumers' needs for convenience in today's hectic world, natural and organic products fit like peas in a pod with online retailing in terms of consumer attributes.

    "The Peapod site allows consumers to easily sort the types of products they are looking for to meet their dietary needs and taste profiles," said Tony Stallone, Peapod's v.p. of fresh markets and merchandising. "Being able to sort by calories, fat, fiber, and sodium can also save time. We are adding the Wild Oats line of products to our assortment because we believe that they have the most stringent quality standards in the industry at a price our customers can appreciate."

    The Wild Oats online products are being marketed with advertisements in the Chicago Tribune, flyers, and bag stuffers in Wild Oats stores, as well as by a direct mail campaign.

    Remodeled Pet Aisles

    In other Wild Oats news, the company recently had an exclusive launch with Pet Promise, a new line of pet food that uses all-natural remnant beef, poultry, lamb, and pork from the same suppliers that provide Wild Oats' all-natural meat products for its meat departments, including Coleman Natural Beef, Petaluma Poultry, and Beelers Pork.

    "We have reset and remodeled all of our pet aisles, and are the only stores offering the Pet Promise line," said Wild Oats' Tuitele. "Consumer research shows that one of the highest-indexing behavior traits of natural foods shoppers is pet ownership, but a small percentage of our shoppers were shopping that aisle of the store, so we believe this is a big opportunity for Wild Oats."

    --Joseph Tarnowski

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