WHOLE FOODS IS STRESSING SAFETY IN ITS PRODUCE CAMPAIGN

AUSTIN, Texas -- Whole Foods Market here is promoting the organic produce in its stores as a safe alternative to bioengineered produce.The promotion included ads that ran in a local California paper several weeks ago, stating, "If you don't want to buy genetically engineered produce, hop on a flight to Europe or shop at Whole Foods Market."In the ad, Whole Foods claimed the only place consumers can

AUSTIN, Texas -- Whole Foods Market here is promoting the organic produce in its stores as a safe alternative to bioengineered produce.

The promotion included ads that ran in a local California paper several weeks ago, stating, "If you don't want to buy genetically engineered produce, hop on a flight to Europe or shop at Whole Foods Market."

In the ad, Whole Foods claimed the only place consumers can be sure they're getting products that have not been genetically altered is at supermarkets that concentrate on organic foods.

According to a source at the Whole Foods divisional office in Sherman Oaks, Calif., the concept behind the ad is new for the company.

"It looks like a good start for high-impact advertising in this area," said Ed Weller, a securities analyst who follows Whole Foods with the San Francisco-based firm Robertson Stephens & Co.

While Weller believes Whole Foods is trying to pull shoppers in with a message of high quality, he believes "they're also trying to convey the message that it isn't too expensive."

Mentioned in the ad were red leaf lettuce, at 59 cents a head; carrots, at 49 cents per pound; Valencia oranges, 39 cents a pound; and Red Delicious apples, 69 cents a pound. Whole Foods also boasted that it carries more organic products than "anyone else in the country."

The ad took an almost antagonistic approach in discussing genetically engineered products, calling them "science fiction business," and said, "buying certified organically grown produce is the only way to ensure you're getting food that has not been DNA tampered with."

Another local analyst, who asked to remain anonymous, said he was not pleased after seeing the ad, because it was not necessarily representative of what is good about their stores.

"I can see what they're going for," he said. "It's like saying, 'Buy our [product] because it won't poison you.' "