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Court upholds Judge’s ruling, opts not to delay Whole Foods/Wild Oats deal

BY Adam Kraemer

WASHINGTON A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled in favor of Whole Foods Market’s bid to buy rival organic grocer Wild Oats Markets, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied a request by the Federal Trade Commission to delay the $565 million sale pending the outcome of an appeal. Whole Foods lawyers argued that such a ruling would have killed the deal.

On Friday, Aug. 17, U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman refused to block the transaction, a decision that the FTC appealed before noon the following Monday. They claimed that if the two companies combine, it would result in less competition and higher prices for premium and organic food.

The appeals court, in a brief ruling, agreed that the FTC “raised some questions” about the deal, but the judges said the agency had not proven that Friedman’s decision was flawed.

Representatives from the FTC did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Whole Foods officials have said they would move at the first opportunity to close the deal. The company’s tender offer to purchase all outstanding shares of Wild Oats stock expires Monday.

“We are pleased to have cleared what we expect to be our last legal hurdle,” Whole Foods chairman and chief executive officer John Mackey said in a statement. “We look forward to closing this merger and believe the synergies gained from this combination will create long-term value for our customers, vendors and shareholders as well as exciting opportunities for our new and existing team members.”

The appeals court agreed Monday to delay the transaction so that it could consider additional information. Its ruling Thursday came just hours after the FTC was expected to file its final brief in the case, according to the Associated Press.

Whole Foods has completed 18 successful acquisitions in the past 27 years. The company’s Web site states that approximately 25 percent of its current sales stem from stores it has acquired and 75 percent from those it has opened.

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Nestle expects growth in bottled water brands

BY Tara Smith

VEVEY, Switzerland Nestle SA is expecting U.S. volume growth in its bottled water brands to improve over the next few months compared to last year, with some help from innovation and tropical weather.

Kim Jeffery, chief executive of Nestle Waters North America, noted on Tuesday that the lack of hurricanes last year did not spark disaster-related demand for bottled water, affecting sales. Considering the damage Hurricane Dean left in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, is seems this hurricane season could help drive demand.

Jeffery also announced the company is developing new brand line extensions, noting that they will follow along the popular trend of “functionality,” by adding vitamins or minerals to the beverages. “You can expect us to be extending these brands in some fashion in the coming years,” Jeffery said. “Most likely in 2009.”

Bottled water enhanced with functional ingredients have become the latest driving force in the beverage industry, especially since Coke paid $4.1 billion to acquire Glaceau, maker of VitaminWater, in June. According to Beverage Digest, sales of bottled water increased 11 percent in the first half of 2007.

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M&M’s introduces two varieties for end of summer

BY Tara Smith

HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. M&M’S Chocolate Candies announced last week that stores are now carrying two new varieties of the famous brand, M&M’S Dark Chocolate Peanut Candies and a limited edition of M&M’S Razzberry Chocolate Candies.

M&M’S first introduced M&M’S Dark Chocolate Candies and M&M’S Dark Chocolate Peanut Candies in April 2005, but for only a limited time, though more than 30,000 consumers clamored for more when the promotion ended, the company said. In response, M&M’S permanently introduced M&M’S Dark Chocolate Candies last August and is now bringing back M&M’S Dark Chocolate Peanut Candies, available nationwide on a permanent basis.

In addition, consumers can now enjoy M&M’S Razzberry Chocolate Candies, which offer the sweet flavor of raspberries as a complement to the classic M&M’S milk chocolate taste. M&M’S Razzberry Chocolate Candies are “in season” and available in stores for six weeks. They will reach their peak in September and October.

“At M&M’S, we are committed to constant innovation to create fun, great-tasting products that deliver unique experiences to our consumers,” said Anibal Martini, global marketing director, M&M’S Chocolate Candies. “We are delighted to continue to grow the M&M’S brand by introducing the first-fruit flavored M&M’S Razzberry Chocolate Candies while meeting the popular growing demand of dark chocolate by re-introducing M&M’S Dark Chocolate Peanut Candies nationwide.”

M&M’S Dark Chocolate Peanut Candies are now available nationwide in food, mass, convenience and drug stores. They are available in 1.50 oz. singles (55?), 2.87 oz. tear n’ share packaging (99?), 12.6 oz. bags ($2.96) and 20.2 oz. bags ($4.39).

Shoppers can grab their bags of special limited edition M&M’S Razzberry Chocolate Candies in prominent, impactful point-of-sale displays nationwide in food, mass, convenience and drug stores. M&M’S Razzberry Chocolate Candies can be found in a bright pink package on which Red announces, “This is Berry Cool.”

M&M’S Razzberry Chocolate Candies will be available for only six weeks in food, mass, convenience and drug stores. They are offered in single 1.50 oz. (55?), 11.8 oz. ($2.96) and 18.6 oz. ($4.39) packaging.

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