Every so often an article floats around the inter-webs, educating us about what big companies are now “in control” of our favorite small organic brands. I admit that the first time I saw an image like the one above, I too thought about skipping over those brands…you know….to show them just how unhappy I was with their new “Master”.
While my initial (and very emotional) thought process had some merit, there was still something nagging at me. And then a few months ago I heard this radio interview with the founders of Honest Tea on NPR. Turns out that nagging feeling I was experiencing was the remnants of all those late nights studying in business school about how economics and market signals really work.
The big bad large companies bought the small wholesome organic company because of one or more of the following reasons:
- The big corporation was loosing market share to the small organic company, so they bought it back
- The small organic company was struggling to make ends meat competing against the big corporation
- The big corporation saw a shift in market behavior and is trying to stay ahead of the game
- The small organic company does not have the capital or investments necessary to make a large scale launch to reach as many customers as they would like
There are other possible reasons, but I think these are some of the big, obvious one 😉
For each of these reasons, we have to remember that, yes, the big corporation is out to make a bigger profit. But so is the small organic company. The small wholesome company may have had a long list of reasons they want to bring good, clean food to your table, but that just isn’t possible without paying the bills first. It’s still a business after all.
Please listen to this interview with the founders of Honest Tea. It highlights a few things that I feel are very important
- They always believed their product was superior and just needed to get it in front of their potential customers.
- They never wanted to loose control over the integrity of their product
- Allowing Coke to invest, opened new lucrative distribution channels to reach more customers
- Not all corporations that “own” a smaller company are necessarily going to take short-cuts for profit (* more on this below)
Founder, Seth Goldman goes so far to say, “You know, I don’t feel a downside. I certainly understand why some consumers had perceptions that we had quote-unquote “sold out.” But I look at what we’re selling. We’re selling a product that’s organic; all of our teas are fair-trade certified. You know, our mission has always been democratization of organics. And we’re reaching millions more people than we were before. So I don’t feel the downside.”
Kuddos to anyone who takes the time to stop and give serious thought to their own eating philosophy and then acts accordingly. Whether you only buy organic, local, grass-fed, gluten-free, ….(the list of categories is daunting!), by shopping according to your principles, it sends a market signal to the producers of your demand. According to the USDA, “U.S. consumer demand for organically produced goods has grown continuously since [the] USDA established national standards for organic production and processing in 2002.”
While it would be ideal for the “good guys” to be able to compete, Dr. Phil Howard, anAssociate Professor in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State, point out that while “Consumers who want food companies that embody more of the original organic ideals would do well to seek out products from independent organic firms. Given the very uneven playing field they are competing in, independent organic processors are unlikely to survive without such support.” Some of the large independent brands are listed below for you to seek out. But given the way the market is set up, sometimes, we have to accept that $0.20 of every $1 goes to the big bad corporation we despise because $0.80 is going towards the cause you believe in. That is how we get those small companies to grow large and meet the growing demand.
Robyn O’Brien and The Food Babe are a few of my idols when it comes to knowing about your food and its sources. These ladies are out there, meeting with large corporations and rallying support for the food awakening that is coming. It won’t come if you stop supporting the little guy that is trying to get in the game with their quality product. When you stop supporting the small organic business, you remove the signal to producers and investors that you, the consumer, want organic and consciously prepared foods! When you are silent, you allow companies to assume that you are ok with conventional or factory farm production to signal louder. Remember, that all of these companies, regardless of size, are a business and money talks louder than any demonstration or petition. Continue to shop where your conscious dictates and be well!
* It is my belief that some corporations can buy out a smaller competitor, make short-cuts, and enjoy greater profits. However, in the area of organic foods, the typical customer (you and me) are much too knowledgeable and discerning to fall for these tricks. If the product quality falls, we stop buying. At least that’s how I operate in my weekly grocery outings. How about you?
Does this map change any of your opinions of the organic brands or buying decisions?Pin It