22 Beloved Organic Brands Swallowed by Big Food Giants

People want to know that what they’re eating is healthy. Big Food has caught on to this reality and begun swallowing natural and organic food companies, knowing they can turn a profit on one of the food industry’s biggest trends, even if it means sacrificing the integrity of what “organic” is all about.

The top 10 US food companies have been feeling some pressure from regulations and the consumer market for failing to provide people with healthy, quality food. These corporations have the financial backing and marketing resources to fight back and win. And that’s exactly what they’re doing by buying up natural and organic food companies that will improve their image.

While it is a daunting battle for consumers, this corporate acquisition of smaller, organic producers shouldn’t cause us to throw up our hands in surrender. Taking a stand is the only way to force a change. This means eating responsible food produced by companies that haven’t sold out to the giants in the food and agriculture industry. It also means figuring out the companies to steer clear of.

Behind the Brands

A website called Behind the Brands rates the major food companies that control the brands you come across every day. The organization investigates seven facets of a company’s supply-chain practices, including sustainability, environmental impacts, and workers’ rights. Surprise! Six out of the world’s top 10 largest food and beverage companies scored “poor” overall.

One example is General Mills, known mostly for cereals as well as its Betty Crocker and Green Giant brands. It comes out on the bottom, having earned only 30% of the total possible points. It scored “poor” in land sustainability, worker rights, transparency, and pretty much everything except climate and water sustainability, where it is noted to be “making progress.”

But that hasn’t stopped the company from trying to save its public image. In the last 15 years, General Mills has gobbled up natural and organic-minded companies, including Food Should Taste Good, Larabar, and Cascadian Farms. Last month, they announced their purchase of Annie’s Homegrown, a socially responsible company that uses natural and organic ingredients.

The Consequences

The problem here is that the acquired companies don’t necessarily follow the same philosophy as the parent company. For example, Annie’s actually advocated for mandatory labeling of genetically modified food (GMO), but that’s at odds with General Mills, which unleashed $2 million to fight against the very same state-based labeling initiatives Annie’s supports. This begs the question: Will Annie’s be forced to assimilate? Will we lose another socially-responsible company to a food giant with deep pockets?

The answer is simple: Yes. The food-company giants are established on cheap and abundant food that is irresponsible, unhealthy, or both. They cannot abandon that model. If they do, they abandon their profits and global influence.

The best they can do for their image is to eat up smaller food companies that are doing things right. Unfortunately, the quality of these sell-out brands will falter. General Mills tripled the sugar content in Cascadian Farms cereals, a company that once claimed “no added sugars.” And when Dean purchased WhiteWave Foods, it then stopped using organic soybeans in its Silk soy-milk products.

Meanwhile, food giants will also eliminate any remaining responsible brands through regulatory proposals, marketing blitzes, or backroom lobbying deals. The result will be some combination of fewer, costlier, and less responsible choices.

What Can We Do?

The solution is simple: We just have to find and support alternatives to these food giants before there aren’t any left. Eat real food, eat quality food, and eat food that hasn’t sold out to the food, agriculture, and chemical industries.

While it’s easy to avoid the top 10 food company brands, it’s harder to avoid sell-outs. Brands such as Naked Juice, Quaker, Horizon Organic dairy products, Kashi, and Nature Valley are among the 22 common brands that have sold out and have ceded market share back to the power players.

Take a look and make the choice to find alternatives before that choice is taken away.