After launching natural, non-GMO versions of its soymilks in early 2009, WhiteWave (which is owned by Dean Foods) is now moving back to selling only a certified organic version of its unsweetened Silk product. Some retailers and advocacy groups accused WhiteWave of deceptive marketing practices with the initial natural launch, so the company is on the offensive to make this change more seamless and transparent for retailers and consumers.
Sara Loveday, communications manager at WhiteWave, attributed the switch to marketplace demands. “We are definitely listening to retailers and consumers and trying to do what’s best for them,” Loveday said. WhiteWave also said the reversion to an organic-only product for its unsweetened soymilk will allow the company to source all of its soybeans from North American farms.
NBJ Bottom Line
This is another interesting move by WhiteWave. According to Loveday, the introduction of natural soymilks last year allowed the company to “offer more affordable options, avoid a price increase, and stay competitive while still continuing a commitment to organic products.” As the larger economy regains its footing, perhaps the need for those more affordable options is diminishing. Or, perhaps WhiteWave wants to appease the Organic Consumers Association, which called for a boycott of the Silk brand because of the way the natural versions of the products were introduced last year.
Regardless of the reason motivating the change, one thing is certain: The battle between natural and organic is far from over. Rather than applaud WhiteWave for its recent product line change, The Cornucopia Institute said it was disappointed the company wasn’t making a more aggressive move back to organic. “We would applaud them if they did this with their fastest-growing line,” Mark Kastel, co-director of the farm policy and consumer advocacy group told the Daily Camera newspaper in Boulder, Colorado. “They’re making themselves out as heroes, and overall, it has very little impact on the market.” According to Loveday, Silk’s unsweetened version is one of the most popular products with those consumers who prefer organic over natural.
For more analysis of the challenges facing natural and organic foods, read NBJ’s 2010 Healthy Foods Report, just released and now available for purchase on our website. The report includes industry trends and competitive analysis, including more than 300 tables and graphs of growth estimates and market penetration.
Related NBJ links: