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Whole FoodsWhole Foods (WFM - Get Report) might not be one of the largest supermarkets in the nation, but it is amongst the fastest-growing. The company is also the largest publically owned chain that exclusively sells natural and organic groceries and fresh food.
The company has locations in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Whole Foods operates 310 stores and 10 distribution centers in the U.S., Canada and United Kingdom. Sixty-seven of the company's stores are concentrated in California, and only 15 reside outside the U.S.
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For comparison's sake, grocery chain
Kroger (KR) has about 2,400 stores, and Safewy has about 1,700, but those chains can't compare to Whole Foods in terms of quality. Other high-end and natural/organic supermarkets include
Trader Joe's, with about 350 stores in 31 states, and
The Fresh Market (TFM), with 115 stores concentrated in 21 states.
As you can see, there is ample opportunity for Whole Foods to grow. Check out its past and projected sales and earnings growth:
Should the company begin to ramp up expansion, and I believe that it will come 2013 and 2014, then Whole Foods would be the stock to own for the next decade.
The Fresh MarketThe Fresh Market(TFM - Get Report) is a smaller competitor to Whole Foods in the organic and natural foods business, and in that respect, the company also makes a compelling investment. But TFM's estimated growth rates -- 17% for sales in the current year and 18% in the following year, and 21% for EPS in the current year and 25% in the following year -- could make it an even more compelling investment.
There is another factor worth considering. Several years ago, in 2007, Whole Foods purchased a smaller competitor, Wild Oats Markets, for $700 million. The market capitalization of The Fresh Market is $2.5 billion. While I am not saying that Whole Foods would acquire The Fresh Markets, it is quite conceivable that one of the larger domestic national supermarket chains or an international chain seeking to get into the organic and natural food retail business could.