Josh Sosland
Among growth strategies showcased in the recent past by executives of large food companies, e-commerce initiatives have been increasingly popular. While on-line food sales remain a very modest part of food businesses, strong double-digit growth year after year has been commonplace. The coming together of and Whole Foods Market, in a $13.7 billion deal announced late last week, should give new urgency to such efforts.

That Whole Foods is being acquired is no surprise. The once high-flying natural/organic food specialty retailer has been struggling to regain its footing for some time. That is the buyer is unexpected, even though the internet giant recently has been dipping its toe into experimental brick-and-mortar retail initiatives.

In its announcement, the buyer is completely mum on what Whole Foods would mean to Amazon’s on-line food sales and delivery efforts. Instead, Amazon seeks to reassure Whole Foods customers with a commitment to continue operating stores under the Whole Foods Market brand. Clearly, though, the transaction is premised on the bright promise of the on-line food business. Grain-based foods companies, particularly bakers of fresh baked foods, have not been as prominent in the move toward e-commerce sales. While more will be understood about Amazon’s intentions in coming days, the magnitude and high-profile nature of the Whole Foods acquisition appears to validate food investments already made in e-commerce initiatives and makes the case for a redoubling of such undertakings.