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Whole Foods announces price drops, new focus for its recently acquired Wild Oats stores

BY Adam Kraemer

AUSTIN, Texas In an effort to win over Wild Oats Markets shoppers in the wake of a contentious acquisition process that included a government challenge, Whole Foods Market announced its plans for the Rocky Mountain region, including a permanent cut in prices and a focus on shoppers in a hurry, Reuters reported.

Following a court decision at the beginning of the week that effectively ended the Federal Trade Commission’s challenge of the $565 million deal, Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods is making an effort to show Wild Oats shoppers that, far from the government’s claims, the deal would lead to lower prices and improved stores.

The first full-service Wild Oats store, located in Boulder, Colo., will be the experimental base for Whole Foods Market Express. Whole foods has also said that it will cut prices at all 23 Wild Oats locations in the region—including Colorado, New Mexico, Kansas, Utah, Idaho and Kansas City, Mo.—and offer a 10-percent-off weekend.

While Wild Oats had already closed some of its underperforming locations, Whole Foods said to expect more. In addition, the company will be selling off Wild Oats’ 35 Henry’s and Sun Harvest stores and a distribution center to Smart & Final, located in Los Angeles, according to Reuters.

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Giant Eagle might lose LeNature plant to Cadbury

BY Michael Johnsen

PITTSBURGH Giant Eagle may lose its $20 million purchase of bankrupt LeNature’s bottling plant here, according to court documents filed in western Pennsylvania’s bankruptcy court Wednesday.

Court-appointed LeNature trustee Todd Neilson charged that Giant Eagle “acted in bad faith” by intimidating a competing bidder, according to court documents. Specifically, Neilson claimed that Giant Eagle threatened to pull its business from competing bidder Cadbury Schweppes Beverage Group.

Neilson asked Judge Bruce McCullough to approve the sale of the bottling plant to Cadbury Schweppes for $19 million without conducting another auction. Cadbury Schweppes bid was the second highest compared to Giant Eagle’s bid of $20 million for the bottling plant.

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Thursday morning reported that Giant Eagle claims it acted appropriately at all times, and “the complained-of conduct had absolutely no impact on the bankruptcy auction or the sale price.”

By discontinuing the sale of Cadbury Schweppes’ beverages, Giant Eagle estimated that it cut as much as $8 million of sales to Cadbury, according to its court filing. Cadbury Schweppes currently generates some $40 million in beverage sales at Giant Eagle.

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Coca-Cola turns to drinks with health benefits

BY Tara Smith

ATLANTA After two years of shrinking U.S. soft drink sales, Neville Isdell, Coca-Cola’s current chief executive officer, is turning to the lab to restore growth with the development of new beverages featuring proven health benefits.

Taking a cue from drugmakers, Coca-Cola is running clinical trials to prove the health benefits of such drinks as Minute Maid Heart Wise orange juice and Enviga green tea. The beverages have the potential to be twice as profitable as soda, which still accounts for 80 percent of the company’s sales.

Some have been critical of the science behind the new drinks, including Enviga, which increases metabolism. According to the company, three cans of Enviga can burn 100 calories, as was determined in a clinical study run by the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. Coca-Cola has dismissed criticism, saying Enviga helps consumers “achieve a healthy lifestyle,” according to Rhona Applebaum, Coke’s chief scientist.

Healthier offerings, overseas expansion and the recent $4.1 billion purchase of Glaceau VitaminWater may help lift the company’s revenue 22 percent by 2010, according to a Bloomberg survey. Coca-Cola’s shares, already up 10 percent in 2007 to date, are forecast to increase 11 percent in the coming year to $59; still down from the stock’s all-time high of $87.94 in 1998.

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