Marking one of the largest buyouts of a natural brands company in history, Campbell’s Soup has announced an agreement to purchase the Bakersfield, Calif. juice and salad dressing brand Bolthouse Farms for $1.55 billion.
Known for fresh fruit and vegetable juices and salad dressings sold mainly in the produce section of supermarkets, Bolthouse also sells baby carrots and provides private label carrots to major brands including Earthbound Farms and Green Giant. The carrot business represents about half of Bolthouse’s revenues, which totaled near $700 million last year.
The announcement came just a day after the New York Times ran a story on the organic industry’s takeover by corporate food conglomerates (Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized?). Some of the biggest buyouts in the organic and natural brandss industry include Unilever’s purchase of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in 2000 for $326 million, Kraft’s buyout of Boca Burgers and Balance Bars in 2000 for $779 million, Dean’s 2001 purchase of White Wave for more than $200 million, Stonyfield Yogurt’s sale to Groupe Danone for $125 million in 2003, and Clorox’s purchase of Burt’s Bees in 2007 for $925 million.
Not only have conventional food companies taken over leading organic and natural brands, they’ve also influenced organic food policy in recent years, holding major seats on the National Organic Standards Board. Nearly 300 non-organic additives have been approved for use in organic food including carrageenan and Martek’s DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid), both algae-derived additives with known human health risks. Martek’s DHA is bleached, extracted and stabilized with the use of synthetics, deodorized and winterized, and is derived through a mutagenesis process, which is a genetic modification technique.
Campbell’s already purchases carrots from Bolthouse for its soups—the core segment of its brand. But competition and dietary changes have led to declining sales in the canned soup category over the last several years. While the company has plans for reviving its soup business by targeting a younger audience with new products, it’s also expecting significant market expansion into the booming healthy, fresh juice category through the purchase of Bolthouse.
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