by Jonathan Benson

staff writer

September 30, 2011

from NaturalNews Website

Since the initial release of the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) draft of organic standards in 1997, large industrial food processors have been gradually acquiring or forming strategic alliances with organic food brands.


And a series of detailed charts (far below images) assembled by Philip H. Howard, an assistant professor at Michigan State University (MSU), provides a visual glimpse into how the organic industry has changed over the years.

It was expected that, with the establishment of national organic standards to replace the loose patchwork of state and local standards that existed prior, large food producers would want in on the action. And many got what they wanted, as they quickly gobbled up many of the largest and most viable organic brands that existed at the time.

Howard explains that most acquisitions of organic brands by industrial food processors occurred between 1997 and 2002, when USDA organic standards were fully implemented.


During that time,

  • Dean Foods acquired the White Wave/Silk brand

  • The Kellogg company acquired the popular Kashi brand

Other major acquisitions over the years include,

  • Kraft's takeover of Boca Foods and Back to Nature

  • General Mills takeover of LaraBar and Cascadian Farm

  • Pepsi's takeover of Naked Juice

And many other acquisitions have taken place over the years as well, which you can learn more about at below charts.

Do these buyouts mean that the acquired brands are no longer reputable or of the same quality as they were before? The answer to this, of course, is dubious. In many cases, the contents of an acquired brand's products have remained mostly or completely the same - the parent company simply wanted a strategic piece of the pie.


But in other cases, the acquired brand's offerings were altered to cut costs. Perhaps the most widely-known case of brand tampering occurred with Dean Foods Silk brand.


As many readers may already know, Silk quietly stopped using organic soybeans in its soy milk products, but did not tell customers. Silk even kept the same barcodes and product packaging, which resulted in some retailers unknowingly selling the altered product as if it was organic for months after the change was made.

At the same time, many industrial food processed have developed organic versions of their existing brands in response to growing consumer demand for organic food, which has improved the overall quality of many popular brands.


These include for example, the introduction of,

  • a Campbell's Soup organic

  • a Kellogg's organic cereal line




Who Owns What in The Organic Industry
by Philip H. Howard

from MichiganStateUniversity Website

Organic Processing Industry Structure
The development of the USDA National Organic Standard in place of differing state/regional standards was widely predicted to accelerate trends of increasing consolidation in this sector.


The first draft of the standard was released in 1997; what changes in ownership and control have since occurred?


2009 Organic Industry Structure

Top 30 Acquisitions


Changes since June 2009 include,

(1) Coca-Cola fully acquiring Honest Tea in March 2011

(2) Nestlé's acquisition of Sweet Leaf Tea in May, 2011

(3) Sara Lee's acquisition of Aidell's Sausage for $87 million in May, 2011

Most acquisitions of organic processors occurred between December, 1997 when the draft USDA standard was released, and its full implementation in October, 2002. Few companies identify these ownership ties on product labels.

Cargill's strategic alliances with French Meadow and Hain Celestial are to develop products with nutritionally enhanced organic ingredients such as phytosterols, soy isoflavones, trehalose, inulin, and chondroitin.


Heinz acquired a 19.5% stake in Hain Celestial in 1999 while also transferring ownership of their Earth's Best brand, but sold all of its Hain Celestial stock in 2005.


2008 Organic Industry Structure

Top 30 Acquisitions

Most introductions of organic versions of well-known brands occurred after the USDA standard was implemented in October, 2002. Some, such as Dove Organic, have been developed specifically for Wal-Mart.



Organic Industry Structure

Significant Acquisitions and Introductions

Venture capitalists currently describe organic processing as "fragmented." They are acquiring brands within the same sector (bread, meat, etc.) with plans to sell them for significant gain at a later date.


Organic Industry Structure

Major Independents and Their Subsidiary Brands

Most remaining independent organic processors have resisted substantial buyout offers

(typically 2 times annual sales).


Organic Industry Structure

Private Label Brands

An increasing number of supermarkets, wholesale clubs and distributors are introducing organic private label products, in addition to chains that specialize in organic and natural foods.