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The Rocky Mountain News had a good piece last week on the growth curve being enjoyed by Sunflower Farmers Markets, the concept created by Wild Oats founder Mike Gilliland, who left the chain back in 2001 and started the new company a year later. Sunflower “sells organic and natural foods, but its motto is ‘Serious Food . . . Silly Prices.’ While Wild Oats offers steaks from Coleman Natural, Sunflower sells Harris Ranch's organic beef for roughly half the price.”

“We're a good foil to Whole Foods," Gilliland tells the News. "We sell a lot of the same products without the hoopla.”

Sunflower currently has more than a dozen stores across the Southwest, and “plans to open six to eight stores a year, but as the company grows, Gilliland is mindful of what he sees as past missteps at Wild Oats. There are no corporate headquarters. He doesn't plan to grow through acquisitions. Sunflower's partners are using their money to finance each store.”

Wild Oats currently is awaiting the result of legal wrangling that will determine whether it can be acquired by Whole Foods; federal regulators oppose such a move because they believe it will be anti-competitive. But Gilliland doesn’t agree. "I think Whole Foods would make Wild Oats better," he tells the News. "I don't view the deal as anti-competitive."
KC's View:
Yet another example of the logic that suggests the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is making a serious miscalculation in opposing the Whole Foods-Wild Oats deal.