John Mackey, chairman and CEO of natural foods supermarket chain Whole Foods, has moved to allay shareholder concerns that the chain is merging with Wild Oats as a strategic ploy to meet its long-term sales target.

Mackey told a meeting of shareholders that he was "not going to do anything stupid" to meet the company's stated objective of reaching US$12bn in sales by 2010.

Whole Foods stockholder Tim Medley was quoted by Cox News as reminding Mackay that high sales growth does not necessarily translate into high profits. ''I'm worried that you may influence 10 or 20 (executives) who are saying 'We need to add more sites because Mr Mackey wants to get to $12bn in sales by 2010,'" Medley said.

Mackay said the merger with Wild Oats would extend Whole Foods' reach into the Pacific Northwest and Rocky Mountain regions, as well as Florida, areas where the company has traditionally struggled to build mass and compete effectively with similar chains such as Trader Joe's.