Since the initial release of the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) draft of organic standards in 1997, large industrial food processors have been gradually acquiring or forming strategic alliances with organic food brands. And a series of detailed charts assembled by Philip H. Howard, an assistant professor at Michigan State University (MSU), provides a visual glimpse into how the organic industry has changed over the years.
It was expected that, with the establishment of national organic standards to replace the loose patchwork of state and local standards that existed prior, large food producers would want in on the action. And many got what they wanted, as they quickly gobbled up many of the largest and most viable organic brands that existed at the time.
Howard explains that most acquisitions of organic brands by industrial food processors occurred between 1997 and 2002, when USDA organic standards were fully implemented. During that time, Dean Foods acquired the White Wave / Silk brand, for instance, and the Kellogg company acquired the popular Kashi brand.
Other major acquisitions over the years include Kraft’s takeover of Boca Foods and Back to Nature, General Mills takeover of LaraBar and Cascadian Farm, and Pepsi’s takeover of Naked Juice. And many other acquisitions have taken place over the years as well, which you can learn more about here:
Do these buyouts mean that the acquired brands are no longer reputable or of the same quality as they were before? The answer to this, of course, is dubious. In many cases, the contents of an acquired brand’s products have remained mostly or completely the same — the parent company simply wanted a strategic piece of the pie. But in other cases, the acquired brand’s offerings were altered to cut costs.
Perhaps the most widely-known case of brand tampering occurred with Dean Foods Silk brand. As many NaturalNews readers may already know, Silk quietly stopped using organic soybeans in its soy milk products, but did not tell customers. Silk even kept the same barcodes and product packaging, which resulted in some retailers unknowingly selling the altered product as if it was organic for months after the change was made.
At the same time, many industrial food processed have developed organic versions of their existing brands in response to growing consumer demand for organic food, which has improved the overall quality of many popular brands. These include the introduction of a Campbell’s Soup organic line, for example, and a Kellogg’s organic cereal line.
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