Mainers wary of Amazon-Whole Foods deal

NOW: Food shopping impact after Amazon buys Whole Foods

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Mainers shared mixed feelings about the potential deal involving internet giant Amazon purchasing grocery chain Whole Foods.

Amazon agreed to buy Whole Foods for $13.7 billion on Friday. The deal is not official yet. Federal regulators still need to approve it.

USA Today business reporter Zlati Meyer said the deal could combine two giant companies that could disrupt the market, but in a way that could benefit consumers: the competition could force other grocery stores to lower prices.

"We're seeing a lot of hand-to-hand combat in the grocery industry. Whole Foods/Amazon's venture into that will just make it even more exciting and better for consumers," said Meyer. "It's not like towels that you buy every few years. This is something you need every single day, so it's something that every consumer will feel every day."

Amazon has not yet released its specific strategy. Online ordering, possibly delivery, could be game-changers, according to Meyer. 

"You had a knife and now you have cannons. It'll be interesting to see how they compete with their fellow grocers," said Meyer.

Many shoppers said brick-and-mortar stores offer a tangible attraction that online shopping does not.

"Mingling with the people in the city -- you do that when you're in the grocery store," said Patricia Merrill. "I do use Amazon a lot but I don't want them to own everything."

Many grocery stores, including Hannaford and Whole Foods, offer online ordering with in-store pick-up. Meyer said Amazon has struggled in the past with selling perishables online.

"I like to go out and pick out my produce myself and just go out so I can get out of my house," said Elisabeth Maxfield, who was shopping at Shaw's in North Deering.

Whole Foods used to be one of the leaders in organic and natural foods, but other chains have increased the availability of those products. Differentiation though this deal could come in the form of door-to-door delivery, which could be an attractive option to many of Maine's aging population, said Merrill, who rides the bus to get to the grocery store.

"The older you get, the easier it gets when it comes to your door," said Merrill.

Meyer said the "house brands," usually generic -- and often cheaper -- alternatives to brand name products, are gaining popularity, and that consumers could see even lower prices on those items if Amazon decides to pursue that route, because Amazon is known for its low prices on items.

"Whole Foods does physical well, and Amazon does tech well. So if you blend those two, it will be interesting to see what happens," said Meyer.

© 2017 WCSH-TV


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