The mission at Whole Foods Market, Inc. (NASDAQ:WFM) is to focus on a healthy lifestyle, but for WFM shareholders, the experience has not been so healthy. Since Whole Foods stock hit an all-time high in late 2013, the shares have been cut in half.
This is another example of a former Wall Street darling that has not able to live up to exuberant expectations.
But then again, there are certainly plenty of cases of turnarounds, right? Just look at Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Starbucks Corporation (NASDAQ:SBUX). There was a time when few had any confidence in their abilities either.
In fact, when a company goes into a slump, there are actually advantages. Management has more incentive to make bold changes and try new innovations.
So perhaps we will see a comeback with Whole Foods stock? Or perhaps the problems will take a lot longer to cure? Let’s take a look at three pros and cons:
WFM Stock Pros
Pioneer and Leader in Organic Foods: WFM got its start back in the late 1970s, when the industry for organic foods was in the nascent stages. But co-founder John Mackey wanted his company to be the dominant player in the industry. Part of this was a savvy marketing strategy focused on women. But there was also an aggressive M&A campaign — bolstered with an IPO in the early 1990s — to consolidate smaller players.
As of now, WFM is the largest natural and organic foods grocery operator in the U.S. and the No. 5 publicly traded food retailer. There are 456 locations, which attract more than 8 million customer visits per week.
What’s more, Whole Foods has been making new efforts to expand its model, such as with 365 by Whole Foods Markets. Launched in 2016, this is a small format store that focuses on value pricing. Right now, WFM is in the experimentation phase. But if 365 by Whole Foods Markets gets traction, it could greatly expand the market opportunity for the company.
Attractive Market: The market for healthy foods is massive. According to TechSci Research, the spending on organic products is currently at about $45 billion in the U.S., and the growth is forecasted at 16% per year until 2020.
This should not be surprise. The fact is that consumers demand healthier offerings. But there is also concerns about sustainability and the environmental impact of business practices.
As Mackey noted on the recent earnings call: “At the same time, the market opportunity is expanding as the consciousness about fresh healthy foods continues to awaken. Our company mission, commitment to transparency and the culture of innovation are more relevant and timely than ever. And where our company is today is just a shadow of where we think it will be in the future.”
M&A Bait: The grocery space continues to see lots of dealmaking. For example, Apollo Global Management LLC (NYSE:APO) purchased Fresh Market for $1.4 billion and Onex Corporation (OTCMKTS:ONEXF) paid $1.4 billion for Save-A-Lot.
But there is more pressure on large grocery operators, like Kroger Co (NYSE:KR), to get more acquisitive since growth continues to remain slow. In other words, a deal for WFM would greatly expand a company’s footprint, allow for cost synergies and also provide more diverse product offerings in the organics market.
The article first appeared in investorplace.com