Food Business News - March 22, 2016 - (Page 12)

When big companies buy small brands ANAHEIM, CALIF. - "Hatelove" could characterize how food entrepreneurs view large food companies over time, particularly those whose businesses are acquired. Take the founders of Epic Provisions and their relationship with General Mills. Before the Minneapolis company acquired the Austin, Texas-based meat "We were concerned when we made the announcement that we were going to take a lot of heat," Mr. Church said. "Our whole thing is, if you want to grow organic, you can't as a little brand really make a big difference in the long run. A tiny niche brand can get so far but not make a difference... "With Coca-Cola, we tried been impossible for us to get through on our own." In the first year together, General Mills helped Annie's launch into organic soups, organic yogurts and organic cereals. Annie's has leveraged General Mills' manufacturing and technical resources, knowledge, category management and robust sales Participants in a panel discussion at Natural Products Expo West included (from left) Robyn O'Brien, a industry consultant and panel moderator; Gary Hirshberg, chairman and co-founder of Stonyfield Farm; Matthew Mitchell, vicepresident at The Coca-Cola Co.; Seth Goldman, co-founder of Honest Tea; Jeff Church, co-founder and chief executive officer of Suja Juice; Steve Young, vice-president at General Mills; John Foraker, president of Annie's; and Katie Forrest and Taylor Collins, co-founders of Epic Provisions. snacks start-up in January, Katie Forrest and Taylor Collins said they were "super anti-corporation." It is a sentiment many consumers and companies within the natural and organic food category share - a distrust of Big Food and the fear of "selling out" when a small brand marries with a multinational corporation. However, as several executives expressed during a panel discussion on March 11 at Natural Products Expo West, the acquisitions are essential for improving the food system. Jeff Church, co-founder and chief executive officer of Suja, a San Diego-based organic cold-pressed juice brand, said his company braced for backlash when the Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, bought a minority stake last August. 12 FOODBUSINESS NEWS ® to take the best of the big company, with the volume, the mass, the distribution, the access to cost structure, but also keep the best of the little company, which is the speedto-market, the innovation, the marketing." John Foraker, president of Annie's, Berkeley, Calif., saw a similar opportunity when General Mills acquired his natural and organic food brand in October 2014. "When the opportunity came to partner with General Mills, I thought about it this way," Mr. Foraker said. "I've been (wanting) my whole life for more organic, more transparency of food, and I have the opportunity now to marry up with someone who can give me the resources and capabilities for Annie's to (open doors) that would have capabilities to unlock new opportunities. Importantly, General Mills has allowed the Annie's brand to remain true to its values, Mr. Foraker said. "The way I think about it is this," Mr. Foraker said. "Who owns the Annie's brand? On paper, General Mills owns it. But guess who really owns it? Millions and millions of moms and dads, and if they see us sway off the path and compromise, the brand is dead." Steve Young, a vice-president at General Mills, said the company's goal with Annie's, Epic and the other natural and organic brands in its portfolio, including Larabar, Food Should Taste Good and Cascadian Farms, is to "marry that spirit of the small with the power of the big." "We are very committed to (the idea that) Annie's is going to retain the right to do what it wants to do with Annie's, and Epic is going to retain the right to do what it wants to do with Epic," Mr. Young said during the presentation. "I would love to get to a point where consumers and the industry are less worried about that because they trust big companies are going to do the right thing. And I believe we can." In an interview with Food Business News during Expo West, Mr. Young and Mr. Foraker shed more light on the keys to successfully growing such a natural and organic business as Annie's within a portfolio as prolific as General Mills'. By 2019, General Mills expects to reach $1 billion in net sales from natural and organic products, and to support that goal the company recently announced plans to more than double the organic acreage from which it sources ingredients. "To me, that was one of the biggest impact opportunities that (General) Mills could help us bring," Mr. Foraker said. "What matters to us as much as having a successful business is driving big impact, and one of the biggest ways to drive impact is to convert more land to organic and sustainable ways of farming. To me, that's the mainstreaming of natural and organic and why big companies are so important to the mix because small companies are not going to be able to expand the supply chain in the way necessary to make organic be a mainstream, affordable option for the masses, and that's our goal." For General Mills, the partnership with Annie's has inspired a more entrepreneurial approach to product March 22, 2016

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Food Business News - March 22, 2016

Food Business News - March 22, 2016
Chipotle continues to struggle
G.M.O. labeling: Back to the drawing board?
Dairy Business News - Picking the right fruits, nuts and seeds
Table of Contents
Web Contents
Editorial - Food industry faces challenges as obesity rate rises
General Mills invests in organic cottage cheese maker
Natural Products Expo West - When big companies buy small brands
Alexia Foods homes in on hot potato trends
What’s popping at Angie’s Boomchickapop
Four trends driving growth in organic
Kraft Heinz impressing investors
Wal-Mart revamping fresh food strategy
Target focused on the fundamentals of fresh
Science, safety and seaweed
Market Insight - Wheat, corn, soybeans: Which one will lead?
Flavor Trends - Beyond sriracha
Ingredient Innovations - Reducing the ‘ates’ in meat applications
New Food Products
Ingredient Market Trends - Millers forecast soft red winter wheat crop at 362 million bus
Ingredient Markets
Supplier Innovations and News
Ad Index
Food Business in the News

Food Business News - March 22, 2016