Earlier this month, food giant General Mills made a deal to buy Annie’s Homegrown for $820 Million. Will it change our favorite feel-good brand?
The news that the beloved natural foods company, Annie’s is being sold to food giant General Mills isn’t surprising, but it still makes me sad. According to the Wall Street Journal, GM’s bid to buy Annie’s Homegrown is part of a long term strategy to capitalize on the growth of organic and natural foods sector, which has been growing at around 12% over the past 10 years. As of today, General Mills has products in 14 categories of the natural and organic segment, which generated annual sales of about $330 million in fiscal 2014 for the company (Annie’s joins General Mills other organic and natural foods acquisitions including Small Planet Foods (Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen), the LARABAR line of fruit and nut-based snack bars, and the Food Should Taste Good snacks).
What does this mean for Annie’s? In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last year, Annie’s Chief Executive John Foraker commented there would likely be backlash from consumers if Annie’s were to be bought by a larger food manufacturer with different values:
“Big companies that own natural, organic companies…that have started to use genetically modified ingredients and other things that are very controversial with their core audience have experienced issues…I don’t want to talk prospectively about what could happen to Annie’s, but I would say that there is a core consumer that is increasingly focused on transparency, quality, and wants to make sure that the companies that they support are staying true to the values that they profess in their packaging and their brand position.”
Sadly, transparency does not seem to be at the top of General Mills’, or any other large food manufacturer’s, mission statement. Lest we forget that General Mills is one of major food manufacturers with organic brands that consistently fights to keep consumers in the dark about GMOs by contributing to anti-GMO label campaigns. In a public statement, reported in the Star Tribune, General Mills spokeswoman Kirstie Foster acknowledged that Annie’s Homegrown has supported GMO labeling initiatives and General Mills has “long opposed” GMO labeling.
Will you continue to buy Annie’s Homegrown products?