Campbell Soup Co., which uses genetically modified ingredients in many of its products, recently bought Plum Organics, a popular organic baby and toddler food brand. While Plum executives say the company will stay true to its mission within the Campbell's fold, the organic and natural food industry has heard that song and dance before from companies including Kashi and Silk. Whether Plum will suffer the same fate remains to be seen, but history suggests a growing problem with remaining true to brand for independent food companies purchased by corporate giants.
Once purchased by mainstream umbrella corporation Kellogg's, Kashi was called out for using genetically modified organism (GMO) ingredients. Silk quietly switched from organic to natural ingredients after its purchase by Dean Foods. Silk was further criticized for keeping the organic price of their products after the switch, prompting many to believe Silk would start using GMOs. Silk has since gained Non-GMO project certification for its beverage line, however.
Another Kellogg's purchase, MorningStar Farms, lost customers after the sale by switching to GMO soybeans and sugar beets.
Numerous small green companies, however, have been quietly purchased by corporate giants and have yet to suffer tangible ill results:
- Honest Tea (sold to Coca-Cola)
- Burt’s Bees (Clorox)
- Odwalla (Coco-Cola)
- Cascadian Farms (General Mills)
- Stonyfield Farm (Groupe Danone)
- Tom’s of Maine (Colgate-Palmolive)
- Naked Juice (PepsiCo)
- Dagoba Chocolate (Hershey’s)
- Green & Black’s (Kraft Foods)
- The Body Shop (L’Oréal)
- Happy Family Brands (Groupe Danone)
- Blue Print and Ella's Kitchen (Hain Celestial)
While some of the acquired companies suffered consumer backlash, the companies have yet to show signs of switching to GMO and unnatural ingredients of their corporate umbrella companies. The companies are prone to declining quality according to Wennonah Hauter of the Food & Water Watch. “This kind of consolidation eventually has a cost impact for consumers, as well as a quality impact,” Hauter, the nonprofit’s executive director, told eMagazine. Hauter added that corporate buyouts of socially minded companies hurts the fight against deregulation of GMO crops and maintaining strict organic standards.
Corporate-acquired companies have definitely switched sides in the natural food fight. Silk, Kashi, MorningStar Farms, Cascadian Farms, Odwalla and Naked Juice all opposed Prop 37, the initiative that would have required GMO ingredient labeling in California, had it passed last November.
What Plum is Doing to Keep True to Brand
Campbell's is keeping the Plum Organics brand operational as a distinct business, which will report to the Campbell North America division. Senior executives at Plum, including co-founder Neil Grimmer, will come under the Campbell umbrella. Grimmer will become president of Plum, reporting to Mark Alexander, president of Campbell North America. Grimmer will continue to operate Plum from its Emeryville, Calif., location.
Grimmer says that Plum's mission will suffer no change in direction. "Plum was founded by a group of parents on a mission to give the very best food to our little ones. To date, we've made a huge impact serving over 200 million organic meals and snacks. Joining the Campbell family will allow us to amplify our mission to reach even more little ones on a global scale. We look forward to building an exciting future together," Grimmer said in a press release.
The packaging and branding of Plum Organics also won't be changed, Campbell Soup Co. CEO Denise Morrison told the Huffington Post. The move is expected to help distance the parent company from Plum and keep from alienating the baby food company's loyal fan base.
Worried about GMOs in your baby or toddler food? Use the Food Shoppers Guide app to be in the know about GMOs in your food. And try our DIY Toddler & Baby Squeeze Pouch recipes to make your own organic fruit and vegetable pouches.
Image: Plum Organics