(March 9) The buyout of Boulder, Colo.-based Wild Oats Markets Inc. allows Whole Foods access to markets it hadn’t previously penetrated, but most aren’t ready to call Whole Foods the “Wal-Mart” of organics.

One of the big bonuses of the buyout, valued at more than $650 million, for Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market Inc. was Wild Oats’ locations, said Neil Stern, senior analyst for Chicago-based McMillan Doolittle LLP.

“This deal eliminates a competitor, provides growth opportunities and access to valuable real estate,” Stern said.

Stern said he’s not sure how much buying power Whole Foods had to gain in the deal.

“In the organic food industry they already had tremendous buying power,” he said. “I don’t know how they could get more leverage than they had. They were already the 2-ton gorilla.”

However, Pat Bayor, director of retail sales and marketing for Chicago-based organics distributor Goodness Greeness Inc., said he sees it differently. He said the retailer could get a boost when it comes to suppliers.

“It’s certainly going to give them some additional strength when it comes to procurement,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

One key area Whole Foods outlined in its initial announcement of the deal was access to the Pacific Northwest.

Tom Lively, senior salesman for the Organically Grown Co., Eugene, Ore., said the organic community was unsure of how the company was going to achieve its goals in the Northwest until the merger was announced.

“Whole Foods had talked about trying to achieve 30 stores (in the Northwest) by 2012, and we were definitely confused as to how they could do that and where they’d find the demographics to support that,” Lively said.

With the buyout, Whole Foods has key access to markets in the region, which is strong in organic sales, Lively said. Wild Oats has six stores in Oregon and one store in Washington. Whole Foods has four stores in Washington and two in Oregon.

In areas like Chicago, where Wild Oats didn’t have a strong base, the effect likely will be minimal, Goodness Greeness’s Bayor said. The Chicago area has only two Wild Oats locations, in Evanston and Hinsdale, Ill.

However, Bayor said the organic produce industry as a whole could benefit from the deal. Conventional stores are launching organic platforms, increasing organic offerings and looking to Whole Foods for inspiration, he said.

“I think we’ve seen that for a while now,” he said. “Any other national chains and independents are expanding their organic selection. For people who haven’t gotten in to the organic business, the first place they look is Whole Foods. Hopefully what we’re going to see from this is additional exposure to other independents and chains around the country.”