Click image to enlarge; this graphic is courtesy of Philip H. Howard, Associate Professor in Michigan State University’s Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies program, and was updated in May 2013.
Anyone attempting to avoid GMOs knows how important it is to choose organic. However, it’s also important to know that not all organic brands are created equal…
Many organic brands were originally founded by individuals and families for all the right reasons, but at some point in their history, they were bought out by a major manufacturer like Kelloggs or Nestlé or Dean Foods.
Sometimes standards were maintained after the purchase; sometimes subtle shifts began to take place–in the ingredients, sources, quality, or business practices (e.g., when Dean Foods quietly rebranded “organic” Silk soymilk as “natural” to enable them to source non-organic soybeans).
Other organic brands were simply founded by a major food manufacturing corporation in an attempt to “get a piece of the organic consumer pie.”
What’s the take-away from this?
1) Many of the organic brands you’ve come to trust are actually corporate-owned.
2) A corporate-owned brand does not necessarily mean its organic line is any less in terms of quality. As in all products, the onus is on you, the consumer, to investigate the corporation (and product) carefully to decide whether their standards meet your expectations and personal philosophy in terms of product quality, corporate integrity, and the support of locally-owned businesses.
3) Organic brands owned by corporations (such as Silk soymilk, which is owned by Dean Foods International) often have no say in how their parent corporation makes decisions (Dean Foods International contributed over $250,000 to fight the 2012 GMO labeling effort in California). For this reason, many consumers have chosen to boycott these brands, knowing their consumer dollars are ultimately going towards a corporation that does not uphold their values.
4) If you want to support family- or privately-owned organic brands, here’s a page full of recommended brands.
List of Organic Brands Owned by Major Food Corporations
The following table is a list of organic companies owned by major corporations. This list is always changing; it currently does not include private labels such as Walmart’s Great Value or Target’s Archer Farms brands.
|Aidell’s Sausage||Hillshire Brands (formerly Sara Lee)||2011|
|Arrowhead Mills||Hain Celestial||1998|
|Back To Nature||Kraft||2003|
|Ben & Jerry’s Organic||Unilever||2003|
|Bolthouse Farms||Campbell Soup||2012|
|Campbell’s Organic||Campbell Soup||2003|
|Cascadian Farm||General Mills||1999|
|Coleman Natural||Purdue Farms||2011|
|Dove Organic||M&M Mars||2006|
|Draper Valley||Purdue Farms||2007|
|Earth’s Best||Hain Celestial||1999|
|Ella’s Kitchen||Hain Celestial||2013|
|Food Should Taste Good||General Mills||2012|
|French Meadow||Rich Products Corp.||2007|
|Fruitti de Bosco||Walnut Acres||2001|
|Garden of Eatin||Hain Celestial||1998|
|Gold Medal Organic||General Mills||2005|
|Golden Temple||Post / Hearthside||2011|
|Green & Black’s||Cadbury Schweppes||2005|
|Health Valley||Hain Celestial||1999|
|Hershey Organic||Hershey Foods||2007|
|Honest Tea||Coca Cola (40% stake)||2008|
|Humboldt Creamery||Foster Farms||2009|
|Kettle (chips, etc.)||Diamond Foods||2010|
|Knudsen, R.W.||J.M. Smucker||1984|
|Late July||Snyders (minority stake)||2007|
|Millina’s Finest||Walnut Acres||2001|
|Mott’s Organic||Cadbury Schweppes||2004|
|Mountain Sun||Hain Celestial / Walnut Acres||2001|
|Muir Glen||Cascadian Farm||1998|
|Nantucket Nectars Organic||Cadbury Schweppes||2004|
|Nile Spice||Hain Celestial||1998|
|Organic Cow of Vermont||Horizon||1999|
|Orville Redenbacher’s Organic||ConAgra||2005|
|Peace Cereal||Post / Hearthside||2011|
|Peet’s Coffee & Tea||Sara Lee / JAB / D.E. Master Blenders||2011|
|Pria Grain Essentials||Nestle||2006|
|Rice Dream (Imagine)||Hain Celestial||2002|
|Santa Cruz Organic||J.M. Smucker Co.||1989|
|Seeds of Change||M&M Mars||1997|
|Soy Dream (Imagine)||Hain Celestial||2002|
|Spectrum Organics||Hain Celestial||2005|
|Walnut Acres||Hain Celestial||2003|
|Wholesome & Hearty||Kellogg||2007|
|Willamette Valley Granola||Post / Hearthside||2011|
|Wolfgang Puck||Campbell Soup||2008|
If you’d like to identify non-food brands that are owned by major corporations, this website provides an extensive list.
A Note About Hain Celestial
Hain Celestial is another one of the mega-corporations in the food industry, and they are responsible for a number of well-known organic brands, including WestSoy, Rice Dream / Almond Dream / Soy Dream, Arrowhead Mills, and Celestial Seasonsings teas. They were partially owned by Nestlé for a few years, and had a former product development agreement with Cargill. Currently there is no evidence to show any alliance with “dirty” food corporations, nor have they taken a public pro-GMO stance—unlike many of the corporations shown above, they did NOT donate to oppose California’s GMO Labeling proposition. The only questionable information that can be cited about Hain is that when they are asked about the canola oil used in their chips, they have a carefully scripted answer that says they cannot guarantee their products are GMO free. (Though even the Non-GMO Project uses a similar statement about their certified products). For this reason, along with their size, and past industry relationships, there is some doubt about their overall integrity as an organic food company.