business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Call this a concrete example of what happens when GMO labeling issue is turned into a core value by a retailer.

Whole Foods, which has announced that by 2018 it will require all of its vendors to label products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), said yesterday that starting in early 2014 it will stop selling Chobani Greek-style yogurt because it prefers to sell smaller, exclusive brands that do not contain GMOs.

Chobani markets its yogurt - which helped to create the exploding Greek yogurt trend - as being made from natural ingredients, but there company says that there is not enough milk from cows that have not been fed non-GMO feed available to meet its needs. And, Chobani said that Whole Foods does not account for enough business to make the decision significant.

"Of course I would love to be available everywhere, but it won't hurt our business," Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya tells the Wall Street Journal in an interview.

It is an interesting case …and not just because Whole Foods is clearly using this case as way of telling its customers and vendors that it is not kidding around.

But it also speaks to another issue that we've been discussing here on MNB the past few days … that sometimes, to strengthen its own brand, a retailer can decide not to sell a product - even a popular product with a clear constituency.

In this case, Whole Foods has its eye on the big picture. This may cost short term sales, and it may well require heightened marketing efforts to sell the yogurts that will replace Chobani on its shelves.

But that's okay, Whole Foods is saying. It's worth it.

It is an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: