AUSTIN, Texas — Whole Foods Market here has a reputation for buying only the best — which is why many observers were surprised last week when the fast-growing natural/organics retailer said it would acquire its biggest rival, Wild Oats Markets. Although Boulder, Colo.-based Wild Oats has long been a laggard compared with Whole Foods and has been scoffed at as a competitor by Whole Foods' chairman and chief executive officer, John Mackey, he said last week that Wild Oats had improved over ...

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