SOURCE: Wild Oats Markets, Inc.
BOULDER, Colo., June 17 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Wild Oats Markets, Inc. (Nasdaq: OATS - News), a leading national natural and organic foods retailer, today announced it has signed a distribution contract, commencing September 1, 2002, with Tree of Life, Inc., a global natural products distributor, as its primary national distribution partner for organic, natural and specialty food products. Tree of Life is a wholly owned subsidiary of multinational Netherlands-based food company, Koninklijke Wessanen nv.
"Over the past several months we have been conducting a thorough review and analysis of our current distribution system and supply chain. The objective of this process was to determine the best distribution partner and system that will enable Wild Oats to optimize our overall supply chain, leverage our purchasing power, reduce costs and improve service to our stores," said Perry Odak, President and CEO of Wild Oats Markets, Inc. "Tree of Life was selected as our distribution partner due to their extensive distribution and logistics expertise, as well as their advanced information systems and distribution technology. Tree of Life was able to provide us with competitive pricing and terms, and an ability to meet not only our current distribution and supply chain needs, but also future needs as we continue to grow our business."
Wild Oats expects this new distribution relationship will reduce current procurement and distribution costs through competitive product costs, consolidated management of freight and logistics, and reduced store expenses through consolidated deliveries. Additionally, Tree of Life will commit resources for marketing support, product line expansions, performance standards and growth objectives.
The three-year agreement with Tree of Life will commence on September 1, 2002 with the expiration of Wild Oats' current distribution contract. With extensive support from Tree of Life, Wild Oats expects that all systems will be in place to transition to Tree of Life as its new distributor and to minimize the disruption to its business. To ensure a seamless transition, a dedicated, multi-disciplined, Wild Oats/Tree of Life project team has been established to manage all phases of the process. Additionally, Tree of Life's resources and experience executing large, geographically vast distribution programs will enable a rapid and comprehensive implementation.
"Ultimately, we want a supply chain partner that will help us be a leader in the natural and organic products industry as we continue to grow our business," said Mr. Odak. "We are making a change in our business that we believe will have substantial long-term benefits for our Company and for our industry. Our strategic partnership with Tree of Life will accelerate the advancement of the natural and organic products industry's current distribution systems, and we are confident this will be a competitive advantage for us in the future."
Once the transition is complete, Wild Oats anticipates improved service for its stores with consistent, reliable product availability and more seamless service with consolidated store deliveries, advanced receiving systems and a unified pricing structure. The Company is confident that it will improve these and other service levels as a result of Tree of Life's extensive North American distribution system and experience working with numerous national retail accounts. Tree of Life's core distribution and logistics competencies, coupled with Wild Oats' recent centralization of procurement functions, will further enable Wild Oats' store management personnel to focus on store-level operations and customer service rather than product purchasing.
"We are committed to providing Wild Oats with exemplary customer service and logistical support for each of its locations," said Richard A. Thorne, Chairman of Tree of Life. "Both organizations' management teams have significant experience executing and managing large-scale changes in distribution strategies and, as a result of thorough planning, we believe the transition will be seamless. Our experience working with companies of this size and scale, both nationally and internationally, will enable us to meet the needs of Wild Oats, both now and as the Company accelerates its growth going forward."
About Wild Oats
Wild Oats Markets, Inc. is a nationwide chain of natural and organic food markets in the U.S. and Canada. With annual sales of nearly $900 million, the company currently operates 102 stores in 23 states and British Columbia. The Company's natural food stores include Wild Oats Natural Marketplace, Henry's Marketplace, Nature's -- a Wild Oats Market, Sun Harvest and Capers Community Markets. For more information, please visit the Company's website at www.wildoats.com .
About Tree of Life
With distribution facilities across the U.S. and Canada, Tree of Life, Inc. is the world's leading marketer and distributor of natural and specialty foods, serving more than 20,000 retail customers. Founded in St. Augustine, Florida in 1970 as a natural foods retailer, Tree of Life has evolved and established itself as the leading premier distributor of natural, specialty and organic foods in the United States and Canada, and has recently expanded into Western Europe. Tree of Life employs more than 6,000 people globally and maintains an inventory of more than 100,000 natural, organic and specialty products. Its specialty products are marketed under the company's Gourmet Award Foods division. Tree of Life is owned by Koninklijke Wessanen nv, a $3.6 billion (U.S.) multinational food company based in the Netherlands. Shares of Koninklijke Wessanen nv are traded on the Amsterdam, London, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and EBS Switzerland stock exchanges. Sponsored ADRs are traded in the United States.