The Mindful Merchant

Shop – Eat – Live – Mindfully

Who’s your Daddy? March 2, 2010

Filed under: ethically produced,organic,shopping — MindfulMerchant @ 9:12 pm

 

Part of the appeal buying organic, earth friendly, fair traded products (for me) is supporting small and when possible, local businesses. I marvelled at the merchandising power my favourite hemp/pumpkin organic granola has. Now it sits amongst the big brand cereals in the supermarket. Three cheers for the little guy!  Then I read Ecoholic (excellent book) and starting nosing around the internet.

Turns out big corporations are cashing in on the organic movement and buying up small mom & pop companies. (o.k. not really a surprise)  Unfortunately, it is hard to know because you will not find corporate logos or other indicators on most of the packaging. It is a secret…sort of. According toEcoholic, “40% of packaged organic foods on health food stores have been bought by large American Corporations”.  That statistic surprises me.

Some people think this is a good thing in that sheer volume will bring down prices and make products more affordable. Big corporations will be able to deliver the products to a wider audience too. Others are concerned about corporate ethics. What if the big guys bend the rules and water down quality and standards?  How can a company that manufactures toxic drain cleaner and conducts animal testing also produce organic/biodegradable/cruelty-free shampoo?

Did you know about these acquisitions?

Heinz Hain-Celestial = Image/Rice Dream/Soy Dream, Earth’s Best (Baby food) , Casbah, Nile Spice, Spectrum

Kellogg = Kashi Cereal, Morningstar Farms

Coca-Cola = Odwalla Juices

Kraft = Back to Nature, Boca Foods (soy “meat” products)

Danone = Stonyfield Farm (yogurt)

Mars = Seeds of Change

Cadbury Schweppes = Green & Black’s, Nantucket Organic Nectars

Pepsi = Naked Juice

Colgate-Palmolive = Tom’s of Maine

Clorox = Burt’s Bees

 

Yup.  Seriously.  Kind of throws a wrench into good, socially conscious shopping thing, doesn’t it?

Many corporations think their affiliation will deter some of us from buying their products.  A few are starting to  add their logos to packaging since many consumers value the big name connection. I find the secrecy a turn off.  It will not stop me from buying some of the products we enjoy.  I question the so-called “responsible brands” and will make a few changes to my shopping list in the future. 

What do you think?

 

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14 Responses to “Who’s your Daddy?”

  1. A Crafty Mom Says:

    I’m kind of stunned – I’ll admit that I really didn’t know this and am kind feel sort of duped. I have a hard time understanding how a company who makes mac and cheese with preservatives and chemicals actually owns Back to Nature cereal (which I was told by a nutritionist was one of the best and healthiest organic brands to buy).

    Burt’s Bees and Clorox??? ACK!!! My lips shudder at the thought. Fabulous and informative post – thank you!

  2. Hi Crafty Mom! if it makes you feel better, I felt (feel) the same way. Glad you liked the post, even though it is not great news.

  3. Jerome Says:

    Laura,
    Its all about how you view it.

    The half-empty view is that it is some terrible conspiracy to dupe consumers and water down all that good work by people who are truly committed to improving our environment.

    The half-full view is that large companies are motivated to follow the market trend with their product developments. By following the market trend, the Fortune 500 are getting these good products to the mass market and are therefore improving the environment faster than they would had they not got on board. I would argue that these guys are expert at sending their message to consumers and in distribution.

    I would even go further to say that the green movement NEEDS these big bad companies to get on board – due to their scale and impact – in order to achieve the goals of slowing down global warming, improving eating habits, awareness of issues etc.

    • LH Says:

      Agreed! The more the “man” gets involved in socially conscious products that are healthier for the environment and our bodies, the better. They wouldn’t get involved if there weren’t a profit to be made, and they wouldn’t be making a profit if there weren’t a demand. Plus, the more these products become mainstream and easily accessible to all, the more the the less healthy options will simply fade away. People are ready to change but most won’t do it if it’s an imposition.

      Sad to say, I never ate organic or bought green products until they were available at my local Loblaws. It wasn’t convenient for me to go to multiple stores to get what I needed. Now, it’s all in one place, so I have no problems making better choices.

      I represent the bulk of people out there that choose convience first. Not proud of it, but larger companies make it possible for me to try to do the right thing by having the clout to place their goods in the chain grocery stores.

      And we the consumers have a say too…. For example if we all buy “Green Laundry Detergent” from Company X and it far out-sells “Toxic Laundry Detergent” from Company X, then maybe Company X will realize the old ways aren’t cutting it and put their efforts into their new line. I like to think we’re slowly moving in the direction….

    • LH Says:

      Agreed! The more the “man” gets involved in socially conscious products that are healthier for the environment and our bodies, the better. They wouldn’t get involved if there weren’t a profit to be made, and they wouldn’t be making a profit if there weren’t a demand. Plus, the more these products become mainstream and easily accessible to all, the more the the less healthy options will simply fade away. People are ready to change but most won’t do it if it’s an imposition.

      Sad to say, I never ate organic or bought green products until they were available at my local Loblaws. It wasn’t convenient for me to go to multiple stores to get what I needed. Now, it’s all in one place, so I have no problems making better choices.

      I represent the bulk of people out there that choose convience first. Not proud of it, but larger companies make it possible for me to try to do the right thing by having the clout to place their goods in the chain grocery stores.

      And we the consumers have a say too…. For example if we all buy “Green Laundry Detergent” from Company X and it far out-sells “Toxic Laundry Detergent” from Company X, then maybe Company X will realize the old ways aren’t cutting it and put their efforts into their new line. I like to think we’re slowly moving in that direction….

      • I also enjoy the convenience and choice in our local supermarket thanks to the “big guys”. I can see how our consumer dollars will influence corporations to focus effort into healthier/earth friendly product lines. However, I think the growing green shift is the reason some companies use “green washing” marketing tactics. Why change the product when you can just change the label? Today consumers are better informed and corporations (hopefully) receptive to change…and like you say…it is slowly happening which is encouraging. Thanks for your input LH…I am enjoying everyone’s comments.

  4. Hi Jerome. I agree it is all about how we view it. I also agree the green movement needs big corporations to get on board…since many have a large negative impact on the environment. I can see the good things. Lower prices, easier accessibility already positively affect my family and me. I hope you are right, that the mergers will inspire better environmental practices, stop support of child labour exploitation etc.. That would be a HUGE positive outcome. My negativity stems from an effort to buy products for our home like shampoo or toilet bowl cleaner from a company that is environmentally focused, does not test on animals etc. It irks me to learn that the corporation I am trying to avoid now owns the small company I chose to support. If corporations were not as “quiet”, it would not be an issue for me. Disclose – then let me decide. It will interesting to see how this story unfolds. One heck of a great marketing opportunity though…

  5. XUP Says:

    Same thing is happening with the small organic farms. The takeovers/buy-outs aren’t always handled ethically either. The big corporations find ways to drive the little guy to the brink of bankruptcy and then take them over. Anytime you see a little product suddenly growing rapidly you know they’ve been taken over by someone big. Yves is another one that was swooped up — I believe by Hain as well. Now they have all sorts of revolting stuff on the shelves

  6. XUP Says:

    No. Where did you find that? Some of the other stuff they’ve invented lately is pretty yucky – tandoori chicken (blechh) That Christmas dinner thing? Eeek. I’m willing to give the chorizo a try though – the Italian sausage is pretty good…way too big, but good

  7. Geez! I remember when I worked at Cruickshanks (bulbs etc. in Toronto) during the early 90’s, and Burt’s Bees was the thing to buy. They were finding themselves in a nice niche market due to their reputation for natural ingredients… I had heard that they had been bought out, but yikes!!… by Clorox? That just doesn’t sit well with this green minded consumer.

  8. veryhappymama Says:

    Somehow I’m not totally surprised, because I’d been wondering how so many “natural” products were making it into store like WalMart and Target so suddenly, sitting on the shelves right next to off the bad processed foods and other supplies.


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