Social media snark has already skewered Amazon’s nearly $14 billion takeover bid for the dominant natural grocery chain Whole Foods. The widespread frustration with both retailers suggests the merger would combine Amazon’s arrogance with Whole Foods’ high prices. The deal was announced one day after the Trump administration rubber stamped a huge GMO seed and pesticide merger between Dow and Dupont.
It’s no surprise that Amazon is capitalizing on Trump’s lax regulatory oversight by snapping up Whole Foods Markets. Amazon has been expanding into groceries and brick-and-mortar retail stores; buying the tenth largest supermarket chain also eliminates a competitor for its AmazonFresh delivery service.
The proposed deal only expands the $136 billion sales of Amazon and follows a cascade of recent supermarket mergers, including the ones between Albertsons-Safeway and Ahold (Giant)-Delhaize (Food Lion). Today, the four biggest grocery store giants sell over 60 percent of the nation’s groceries. Amazon’s planned Whole Foods takeover mirrors the supermarket merger wave.
This consolidation should be familiar to Whole Foods’ shoppers. Big Food companies have bought up a host of cherished natural, organic and health oriented brands. Large companies devour smaller brands just as they secure footholds on supermarket shelves — like when General Mills bought the organic brand Annie’s in 2014.
Although many loyal customers don’t know, the natural-branded cereal Kashi is owned by Kellogg’s, which also manufactures Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Coco Krispies. These mergers merely maintain the illusion of choice while ensuring that your grocery dollars are funneled to the same corporate pockets.
When grocery chains get bigger consumers lose — we pay higher prices for worse selection. Since 2008, grocery prices have increased three times faster than typical wages. “Whole Paycheck” isn’t known for its affordability. Once it combines with the dominant online retailer, it will be able to use its economic power to push smaller organic and natural food stores out of business — allowing price hikes to continue unabated.
The proposed deal will have the biggest effect on the online grocery business. Eliminating the ability to choose between AmazonFresh and delivery services that cater to Whole Foods’ shoppers will reduce options when making decisions about what ends up in your fridge. The deal will make it even easier for Amazon to bully supermarkets and other emerging grocery delivery services, reducing choices and ultimately raising prices.
The proposed Amazon-Whole Foods mega-merger just further consolidates a food system controlled by corporations. Last year, Trump said that Amazon was a “huge antitrust problem.” Unless the Trump administration blocks this merger, this deal brings that problem directly to our dinner plates.
Oakley Shelton-Thomas is a Research Intern at Food & Water Watch.