To the shock and disappointment of many health-conscious consumers across North America, General Mills purchased beloved organic brand Annie’s Homegrown in an eye-popping deal valued at $820 million, or $46/share.
This is just the latest in a long string of acquisitions of small, natural food companies by huge, multinational corporations in recent years.
The purchase of Annie’s Homegrown, a 25-year-old company whose trademark motto is “Real Food Tastes Better” is particularly hard to take for parents because Annie’s products are focused and targeted to children.
John Foraker, CEO of Annie’s Homegrown (not to be confused with the privately held company Amy’s Kitchen), said the following of the acquisition:
We are excited about this strategic combination, which will enable Annie’s to expand the reach and breadth of our high quality, great tasting organic and natural products, provide new opportunities for our employees, realize greater efficiencies in our operations, and maximize value for our stockholders.
To those customers greatly concerned that Annie’s product quality will tank due to the new affiliation with frankenfood titan General Mills, Foraker went on to say that:
Annie’s will remain dedicated to our mission: to cultivate a healthier and happier world by spreading goodness through nourishing foods, honest words and conduct that is considerate and forever kind to the planet. Authentic roots, great tasting products, high quality organic and natural ingredients, and sustainable business practices will continue to be the cornerstones of the Annie’s brand.
Quick to take action, many enraged consumers have labeled Annie’s a traitor company and vowed to boycott Annie’s products as a result of the news, primarily motivated by the fact that General Mills contributed $2.1 million to defeat California GMO labeling initiative Prop 37 in 2012 and I-522, a similar measure in Washington State.
In addition, General Mills is a member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) which not only spent millions to defeat GMO labeling across the United States but arrogantly went so far as to sue the state of Vermont for its successful passage of a GMO labeling bill. Moreover, GMA supports and even helped draft a federal bill in Congress that will deny states the right to pass their own GMO labeling initiatives.
The Organic Consumers Association is in support of the Annie’s Homegrown boycott, calling for consumers to sign a petition to CEO Foraker that states the following:
Dear Mr. Foraker,
I am disappointed that Annie’s has sold out to a company like General Mills.
General Mills has so far spent $2.1 million to defeat GMO labeling initiatives, in California and Washington State. The company is a member of the Grocery Manufacturers which also has spent millions to defeat GMO labeling laws, has joined other groups to sue the state of Vermont to overturn the mandatory labeling law passed there earlier this year, and helped draft the bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan), that would deny states the right to pass mandatory GMO labeling laws and make it legal to label foods containing GMOs as “natural.”
General Mills shareholders recently overwhelmingly rejected a shareholder’s resolution to remove GMO ingredients from the company’s products. While the company says it supports a uniform federal approach to GMO labeling, what it really supports is a “voluntary” scheme that would preempt states’ rights to pass labeling laws.
As a conscious consumer, I can no longer purchase Annie’s Homegrown products. If Annie’s wants to match its parent company’s donations against GMO labeling, by contributing an equal amount to support labeling initiatives in Oregon and Colorado, and if General Mills agrees to pull out of the GMA and publicly support state and federal mandatory GMO labeling laws, I may reconsider.
Until then, I will not be buying anything under the Annie’s brand.
This chart put together by Phil Howard, Associate Professor of Michigan State University, aptly illustrates the acquisition problem being experienced in the organic food industry and why consumers are concerned enough to be resorting to boycotts with the hope of altering the trend.
Why I Don’t Plan to Join the Annie’s Boycott
While I certainly sympathize with those in support of Annie’s boycott for the reasons listed above, I am not planning to join in at this time.
The primary reason I will continue to buy Annie’s brand on occasion as I have done for years is that this seems to be a classic case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
While it certainly would be easier in the long run for Annie’s to maintain its commitment to quality, organically produced food if it remained an independent company, it is not necessarily a done deal that quality will fall from an acquisition by General Mills.
The owners of Annie’s have a right to sell, after all. The company has been around for 25 years and maybe this is the right choice for the founding family. Who are we to judge their reasons?
This is a free country and threatening the company with an organized boycott when it has not yet deviated one whit from its original mission for something that is completely within its legal right and the founding family’s choice for the pursuit of happiness as they see fit seems very un-American to me.
It’s a “you’re guilty until proven innocent” mentality.
In addition, many Americans only have a choice to buy food at a Super WalMart or some other large supermarket chain. For these people, Annie’s represents a very good option and targeting a company with a boycott unintentionally harms these people too who have so few food choices as it is.
It is certainly very important for consumers to keep a close eye on Annie’s in the coming months and years to see if the quality and commitment to the nonGMO Project does indeed begin to suffer from becoming an arm of Big Food. If it does, you can be sure that I will be among the first to drop it like a hot potato and will not spend another dime on their products.
If, however, Annie’s continues to produce quality items, I see no reason to not continue buying their products as they fit the budget and eating philosophy.
There are some of Annie’s products I never buy, but there are some that I like well enough and buy occasionally especially when I am traveling and having difficulty finding decent food. I have no plans to alter my buying patterns in any way.
However, if the opportunity presents itself, I would certainly prefer to buy from another independent company if it has a similar product to Annie’s – most especially if this company is local! But, given that Annie’s isn’t a local company no matter if it remained independent or becomes part of Big Food, the choice to buy from them doesn’t really change due to the acquisition plans.
In my view, we should support quality food wherever it is produced, big corporation or a small independent company with local businesses always taking precedence if at all possible. A dollar spent on Annie’s products is not supporting General Mills, in my opinion. It is supporting quality food, and big corporation or not, General Mills will produce more of it if we demand it as consumers.
The bottom line is that where you spend your food dollar matters. If you spend it on quality foods that are nonGMO and produced in a sustainable manner, this is the type of food that will become more available – big company or small, GMO labeling or not.
What is your view? Are you going to boycott Annie’s because it will be acquired by General Mills? Why or why not?
Five years after the General Mills acquisition, I am happy to report that I am still buying Annie’s products. While not as good as what I make at home, they are still of high enough quality that I occasionally purchase some of Annie’s items for lunchboxes and snacks.
I do understand peoples DESIRE to be reasonable about their decision that MAYBE it won’t be so bad & MAYBE their product quality won’t change, I want it to be true too, my son & I loved the Annie’s products but that is ONLY a justification of the TRUTH. So
PLEASE DO NOT TRY to get OTHER people on board with YOUR desire to JUSTIFY WHY it MIGHT be ok etc.
when YOU ALREADY KNOW THE TRUTH deep down inside. The TRUTH is General Mills is a CORPORATION & NOT in it for the BENEFIT of the PEOPLE or the GREATER GOOD. They care about THEIR PROFIT & THEIR BOTTOM LINE. So all we REALLY need to look at is 2 things & the BIG PICTURE. THEIR STATISTICS & THEIR HISTORY & that is the TRUTH right there. Also, how do we KNOW what ingredients they’re actually using in these products or the TRUE QUALITY OF THEM because they DON’T HAVE TO TELL US or PUT IT ON THEIR LABEL . So, you can bury your head in the sand & HOPE that their products will be the same & find a way to JUSTIFY it to yourself when you already KNOW the TRUTH.
Or you can stand up & say I KNOW the TRUTH & I WILL NOT COMPROMISE mine or my family & friends PERSONAL INTEGRITY & HEALTH by continuing to SUPPORT YOU. This is the ONLY way to create REAL CHANGE by hitting them where it hurts, in their PROFITS.
I think that people that support them don’t realize that GM is a proponent of nanoparticles, and if Annies didn’t have nanoparticles already for their food, they will now. PS…its cheaper, as a person with less money, to boil pasta, and melt sauce or cut up some tomatoes than it is to buy the 1/4 of a box pasta. I really like Annies, I’ve been eating it for a year now..I hated KD growing up. I’ll definitely be looking for an alternative from here on out.
‘Several nanoparticles have been reported to cause cellular damage to biological systems when they accumulate within the system. At times they also disrupt the normal working of the cellular components within the biological system because there are reports that they attach to cellular receptors of the cells of the immune system and confound them . The nanoparticles also at times get coated with proteins and this leads to the degradation of the protein and hence the normal cellular mechanism is disrupted. Silver nanoparticles have been reported to have adverse effects on the human system. They affect the human lung fibroblast by reducing ATP content, increasing ROS production, and damaging mitochondria and DNA . It also leads to chromosomal aberration. Hence quite positively it can be said that silver nanoparticles are genotoxic, cytotoxic, and even carcinogenic. The reduced size of the nanoparticles allow it to cross the cellular barrier and its exposure leads to the formation of free radicals in the tissues and eventually leads to oxidative damage to the cells and tissues . Carbon nanotubes that are mainly used as packaging material for food usually migrate into food and can lead to toxic effects on the skin and lungs of human .
Not only human health but also the ecosystems are highly affected by nanomaterials that are disposed of by several manufacturing industries. These nanomaterials migrate and accumulate in the water or soil and disrupt the normal biota of that region. Nanoparticles that are washed off to the marine systems form a layer on top of the marine body and prove to be toxic to the planktons . The pelagic species that feed on these planktons are likely to be affected by the toxicity caused by the nanoparticles . Once the nanoparticles settle down to the floor of the marine body, the benthic species are affected by them . Aluminium nanoparticles have been reported to result into inhibition of plant growth . A summarized view of the implications of the nanoemulsions in the biological system is given in Table 3.’ From hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2015/365672/
Gee I hate to break it to you, but we see the product quality tanking. We bought Annie’s Cowgirl Ranch for YEARS and now it tastes freaking AWFUL!
Don’t sit there and tell us it won’t get worse because IT IS WORSE!
It is sweet to be naïve.
Take them CEOs of General Mills and Annie’s and put them on a farm for a year and take away their nice house, cars, boats, golf, night clubs and women. So what is the outcome?
CEOs are glorified paper pushers, finding a way to make things easier, faster, better known as progress. Of course now, signatures are no longer used with a pen but are programmable, the easier the better.
Self-integrity finds its roots from sweat labor intensive’s hard work.
Organic farming is not fast, not easy, and it’s surely not made to be progress.
Organic farming is made to be high quality, that does not come from a decision making CEO sitting in an office.
Within a week, all CEOs would have found somebody to do their labor work for them and never ever experience the joy of little seedlings popping up out of the soil. CEOs are schooled for making money.
The public is now laughing at the small containers and less than a 1/4 of food in the containers. They have reduced the product and container sizes and put it on sale, and actually believe the public doesn’t notice it, it’s more like the public doesn’t have a choice.
EDTA, Sulfur, bonemeal food taste enhancer MSG, aluminum. Really, and guess what they no longer have to label it either, isn’t that sweet.
But you know, there is that elite society has deemed us all expendable due to the overpopulation of the earth.
So what is true and what is not true, I surely don’t know. But, when I seen Annie sell out, that was an immediate turn-off for me, I guess I shouldn’t judge too harshly, I may have done the same thing if the money was right, I don’t know.
Easy to be critical, but if someone offered me a million to only live a short time, don’t know?
When they sold to GM their beautiful bunny shaped saltines became ugly plain hexagons. Wonder what other less visible changes to the generic stays quo were made,
Just found this from the Cornucopia Institute :http://www.cornucopia.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/meas92-prop105.1001.1500px.jpg
Looks like Annie’s donated $135,000 to label GMO’s. Now that they have been bought out, General Mills has donated $1,515,000 against labeling!.
I will never buy another product from them again!
Sarah, to me, you are missing the point – which is not whether Annie’s products will or will not be as pure after General Mills’ purchase of Annie’s. The point is not to reward General Franken Mills by purchasing new Annie’s division products. This makes successful their plan to buy up and control as much of the organic market as possible. In future, potential purchases of organic companies should not be seen as a profitable venture to their overall strategy.
We’re not rewarding GM … we are rewarding quality processed foods. I don’t care who produces them … GM or anyone else. If GM wants to produce frankenfood for the masses who don’t care, that is fine too. I don’t think trying to control other people’s decisions on how to run their business is a good move. If Annie’s stays true to its mission, that is enough to keep my business.
“If Annie’s stays true to it’s mission”. There is no more Annie’s, it is now Annie’s division of General Franken Mills. They will only produce clean food at this division as long as they have to – we know what their agenda is: to establish hegemony, along with corporate partners, in the processed food industry. If an evil company produces a good product, should you reward/support them with your purchasing dollars? Or should you seek out the same or similar product elsewhere at a local or small independent producer? The whole idea of a boycott is to shame a company for behaving badly and to help the small independent sector thrive. This is not about purity after the buy-out or making someone’s decisions for them. It is about supporting those entities who embrace our values. Franken Mills does not produce products that support my values – rather they do everything they can to thwart them (ie: California labeling proposition). Should we aid them in this strategy? Would any of us in the WAPF food movement buy a “green” weed killer from Monsanto? Wake up Sarah, this is not just about one product line – it is about the survival of healthy modalities and our war against the mega corporate cabal that want to harm us and profit while doing so.
This seems like just pure anti-capitalism/anti-Americanism to me. I agree with Sarah, anyone who is making quality, pure, wholesome foodstuff deserves our money, regardless of how big they are.
renee: Bereft of any logical position you resort to ad hominem attacks. It’s very “American” to boycott oligopolies and Robber Barons. This is what this whole issue is about. The monopoly capitalists are always on the march to consolidate and control everything. Laisse-faire capitalism is what we need more of in this country and haven’t seen for many decades. Don’t lump all forms of capitalism together – big mistake.
I’m totally with you on this one. As long as Annie’s stays non GMO, I’m happy. My food choices are never 100% perfect, and Annie’s is one of the few convenience foods we keep on hand for busy days. After all the ranting about how companies should produce more organic/GMO free food, why are people getting upset when one of those companies acquires a good one? I’m a little sad, but I feel that by continuing to support Annie’s, we send a positive message that we want GMO free food!