Who's Really Behind Organic Food Brands Like Amy's and Odwalla?
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If they have to tell you it’s a real place, there’s something not quite right. Oh, and General Mills owns Cascadian Farms. Founder Gene Kahn was featured in the excellent book, Organic, Inc. defending himself against those who would say that he sold out. General Mills also owns Muir Glen and Small Planet Foods, both of which are mentioned on Cascadian Farms’ website, while General Mills is not. General Mills is one of the largest packaged food companies in the world and has a joint operating agreement with Nestle. In the fourth quarter of 2009, General Mills posted revenues of $3.646 billion. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but it sort of brings the pastoral image into question.
If you guessed Eden Foods as one of the independents, you guessed right. In this fantastic article the founder of the company tells his story about fending off the advances of multiple large corporations. Why? Because he wanted to run the company his way, with careful attention to the quality of the product and sustainability practices. Eden is probably my favorite organic food company, mostly for being pioneers in BPA-free cans. (Except for the tomatoes, for which they are looking for an option). According to the company’s website, they process their soybeans without toxic chemicals. All Eden soy products are made from multi-tested GEO free, USA family farm organically grown soybeans, with no refined sugar and no synthetic processing aids. They do not add isoflavone supplements or soy protein isolate . All of the above questionable additives and practices are routine in the industry . Plus, they employ people in Detroit, one of the country’s most economically distressed areas. What’s not to like?
I’m not sure what the giggling children on the Horizon website have to do with organic milk, in fact, I’m not sure what Horizon has to do with organic milk either. The company is owned by Dean Foods, a huge conglomerate that is said to be in control up to 90% of the milk market in many states. The company has reported record profits this year as dairy farmers all over the country have gone under. The company is currently being sued by farmers and also being investigated by the Justice Department for monopolistic practices. In other news, Horizon has long been accused of selling “fake organic” milk by the Cornucopia Institute. Enough said.
I was surprised and delighted when I found out that this Canadian company is still family owned, because I like their products. The son of an ecologically-minded organic farmer, founder Arran Stephens believes in not expanding the company beyond the point where he can personally run it. The company does a lot to support organic farming, packages their products as sustainably as possible, and engages in many green business practices. While I don’t usually eat packaged cereal, if I were going to, I’d buy Nature’s Path over any other brand. There’s some interesting reading on their website about the family and company origins. At first glance the site looks like it was developed as a homey, “real” brand by a team of corporate image experts, but then you read the content and it’s too personal to be branding. So refreshing.
Newman’s Own Organics
Privately owned by Nell Newman, this company is an offshoot of the original Newman’s Own company, started by Paul Newman. They make tasty snack foods that are less bad for you than the chemical laden non-organic foods, but they are still snack foods and should be used sparingly in favor of real, cooked from scratch food. The company is very transparent about the ingredients in their products. Although the original Newman’s Own company gives tons of money to progressive charities, I don’t see this as part of the Newman’s Own Organics branding.