Massive corporate consolidation continues in the organic sector
(Commentary by the Cornucopia Institute’s Mark Kastel)
WhiteWave CEO, and former Dean Foods CEO, Gregg Engles knows as much about vegetables as he knew about dairy when he orchestrated a global feeding frenzy in that market to build Dean Foods. The end result was the destruction of dozens of independently owned, regional dairy businesses and thousands of jobs. After they were done pillaging they then jettisoned the WhiteWave division earlier this year.
Now Engles and WhiteWave are setting their sights on exploiting these assets on Wall Street as well. WhiteWave has announced its purchase of organic vegetable producer Earthbound Farm for $600 million.
This is the same management that built the Horizon dairy label in its early years with virtually all their milk coming from giant “organic” factory farms, with as many as 10,000 cows living in their own filth. (One such operation was eventually shut down, through the USDA certification process, after a legal complaint by The Cornucopia Institute.) WhiteWave still depends on giant dairies in the desert West, some milking thousands of cows, for a large percentage of their milk production.
This is the same company and management that, after buying “organic” soybeans from China, took over the Silk soymilk product line and converted it from 100% organic to virtually no certified organic products/sales volume — replacing organic with “natural” products.
Should organic industry participants view them as trustworthy?
This new acquisition even gives corporate lobbyists at the former Dean Foods/WhiteWave a direct conduit to the important National Organic Standards Board via John Foster, an employee of Earthbound and an NOSB member.
In addition to Horizon and Silk, WhiteWave manufactures a myriad of conventional products distributed outside of the natural/organic channels. For example, the company, which professes allegiance to health and the environment, makes International Delight nondairy coffee creamer, a product with dubious ingredients that no nutritionist would recommend be part of any healthy diet.
As Calvin Coolidge once said, “The business of America is business.”
The Cornucopia Institute has been working to make sure the organic industry is different. That it continues to be a values-based movement returning dividends to the earth, to citizens who want better food, and to the hard-working families who produce it.
Fasten your safety belt.
(All statements attributable to Mark A. Kastel, Codirector and Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute.)
MORE: A documentary aired by the CBC throughout Canada, The New Green Giants, interviewed Silk founder Steven Demos documenting the betrayal by Mr. Engles and Dean Foods leadership, who had assured Demos that the values that made Silk a successful business enterprise would be maintained. Not long afterwards Demos was summarily fired as Dean Foods began the transformation of Silk, initially by importing “organic” soybeans from China, to conventional soybean products bearing “natural” labeling. Prices didn’t go down but profit certainly went up.
The two and half minute trailer for the film includes poignant quotes on the subject from Mr. Demos and Cornucopia’s Kastel.
A link to the CNBC story reporting the WhiteWave acquisition can be found here.
Please see this fact sheet on Dean Foods/WhiteWave’s involvement in the organic industry.