The natural food industry is a maze of twists and turns which contain equal parts of innovative genius driven by a desire to improve the quality of lives for the entire planet to it's alter ego of corporate deceit and greed.
In a true example of art imitating life, we have the ongoing saga of natural food health. One of my favorite movies, at least among those which do not feature John Wayne-how could anyone not like a great Duke movie-was "RV", which of course starred Robin Williams.
In that flick, the story involved an executive working to secure a merger with a small family oriented, natural beverage company. His job was to pitch the idea of massive economic growth to the fraternal co-founders. In the end, the lead character saw through the corporate stranglehold and told his captive audience that by accepting this offer, they would be making the worst decision of their lives.
The natural food industry does feature many small companies that launched with the purpose of making all natural food products that taste great and improve overall health. They began with a commitment of using real, organic ingredients. They would shun genetically modified organisms and would not add artificial sweeteners.
They would not go the way of cheapening their brand by using chemically altered substances. They would proudly label their products with truthful descriptions such as all natural, organic and GMO-free.
And this industry took off as concerned citizens began to question the shady practices of the Monsanto conspiracy. Large parts of the population began to demand transparency in food labeling and began to use their purchasing power by selecting brands labeled as GMO-free and those promoting no high fructose corn syrup.
As the natural food industry grew, it caught the eye of international food companies. Mergers and buyouts have been part of the business culture for years. Large corporations see an avenue for increased profits from a product niche that is far different than their current offerings. And smaller company owners see a chance for a huge financial windfall.
In and of itself, this isn't a bad thing. The rub may not show up until after the sale. Too often we've seen these "natural" companies being transformed into something closer to the ideals and "standards" of the purchasing corporate giant. Here are a few examples.
"Honest Tea" began as an organic tea producer. Their products were touted as being a natural food that had a very small amount of sugar added. But over time, they have expanded their offerings to include bottled products that had much more sweetener added.
Years ago Coca Cola bought out Honest Tea. One of their co-founders, Seth Goldman remained in place as the director of that company. Please remember that name. We'll come back to him a little further down the page.
"Muir Glen" states that their vegetables are fully organic. They report that their products have no synthetic additives whatsoever. Here is a quote directly from their own website. "We understand that knowing whether food is produced with GMOs is important to you. In the spirit of transparency, we’ve enrolled our products, Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen and Lärabar, which have always been made without GMO ingredients, in the Non-GMO Project."
A few years ago General Mills bought the Small Planet company which includes Muir Glen.
"Kashi Foods" produces a line of cereals, snacks, cookies and other food items. In the "About Us" portion of their website, you will read, " We make our foods with simple, natural ingredients-and everything we believe." They also report that four of their cereals are non-GMO project certified as of 2014.
This is their non-GMO stance, quoted from the Kashi web site. "Our commitment: By the end of 2015 more than half our food will be Non-GMO Project Verified.* But we won’t stop there. We’ll continue to increase the use of organic and non-GMO ingredients where possible, while making sure to continue to provide the positive nutrition you expect from us."
Kellogg became the owner of Kashi foods in the year 2000. They began using GMO soy in their products which produced a customer backlash. David Desouza, a company general manger at the time, defended this change by saying, "The FDA has chosen not to regulate the term natural." Please remember this statement as well.
"Naked Juice" states on their website that they are "making the whole planet feel better- one bottle at a time." They further state that, "We only use what Mother Nature gave us."
Pepsi Cola bought Naked Juice. They chose to accept a settlement in a class action lawsuit regarding the use of the words, "All Natural" on their product labels. Some of their products were suspected of actually using genetically modified food items in their "all natural" products.
Pepsi settled that lawsuit but it appears their attorneys have done a good job covering their tracks with non-disclosure items required of any persons who receive settlement funds. Silence is golden. Here is a link with more detail into the efforts to keep this settlement out of the limelight.
This collection of corporations under the GMA umbrella is a deep-pocketed alliance with a focused objective. They are pouring millions of dollars into vigorous campaigns to defeat any state or federal initiative that would require accurate labeling of ingredients. In particular they do not want to disclose the use of genetically modified organisms in any product.
They are pressuring the federal government, especially the FDA to consider genetically modified organisms as natural. This would solve all their problems. It wouldn't solve the major health issues facing our planet, but it would solve the nasty corporate dilemma of being forced into honest accounting. Rather than becoming truly transparent, they could just change the definition of transparency. Very clever.
In the first half of this year, GMA members have spent well over $25 million in attempts to defeat any food labeling laws. This is already three times more than they spent all of last year.
This is following the exposure of one of their members in a money laundering action intended to disguise where the cash to fight these grass roots transparency laws was actually coming from.
Lets go back to Seth Goldman, one of the founders of "Honest Tea." In 2013 he stated,"after internal discussions, Coca-Cola will not be directly lobbying against a similar effort in the state of Washington , although it is a funder of trade associations arguing against the labeling." This was in regard to Grocery Manufacturers Association efforts to defeat food labeling laws in Washington state.
Not long after, the GMA was forced to reveal who was part of this corporate money full court press. Who do you suppose was high on the cash providing list? You know that answer. Coca Cola was number five on the lineup with a contribution of over $1 million.
Now I wonder, isn't it an SEC violation for a corporate executive to make misleading financial statements that could benefit a publicly traded company? That makes me say "Hmmm."
The original values and direction of many natural food suppliers was one of honesty and a desire to provide products that would benefit consumers. This business plan would provide a platform for natural food health. And it would reward the founders with a good income. This is after all the basis for a winning partnership. Find out what the consumer wants and needs and then provide it.
Here is an interesting chart in the link titled "The Boycott List.". You an click on any member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association wheel to see some startling information. Please return to this page for some direct data about the health challenges brought on by high fructose corn syrup, genetically modified seeds and by the Monsanto conspiracy. Those topics can be found in the Page Directory under the nutrition portion of cardiovascular system section of that page.
We have the power to turn around this corporate deception. Our wallets are their means of survival. Our buying choices will be the catalyst for change. We can make the description of natural food accurate.