Burt’s Bees is marketed as a local brand from Durham, N.C., and proudly described as “Earth Friendly Natural Personal Care for The Greater Good.” Of course the brand downplays that it was sold for nearly a billion dollars a few years ago to mega-corporation Clorox.Brands like Burt’s Bees and Ben & Jerry’s attract a growing market of environmentally-conscious consumers. They rely on being marketed as local and natural, but many consumers have no clue that these brands now have mammoth multinational overlords.
Lots of the companies started as mum-and-pop’s, and though selling to a corporation may have been a hard decision, these small business owners all sought ways to preserve their ideals as part of a large company. When customers accused Burt’s Bees of selling out, CEO John Replogle says he personally responded to anyone who provided contact information.
Seeds of Change was founded as a seed company specializing in organics back in 1989. After candy-giant Mars bought the company, Seeds of Change was allowed to keep running mostly as it did before.
In 2010, Mars decided to close the Seeds of Change Research Farm and Gardens, which boasted thousands of varieties of plants.
The shutdown drew criticism because the farm had been synonymous with the brand and was a part of its marketing.
Cascadian Farm used to be famous for its cereals with 'no added sugar.' In 2010, this label disappeared from its boxes.
A Cascadian Farm customer said her children noticed a funny new taste in their Purely O's. It turned out the cereal had tripled its sugar count.
Cascadian Farm customers felt duped and complained the new cereal tasted 'dreadful' and looked 'disgusting.'
The ice-cream maker said Unilever was determined to nurture Ben & Jerry's commitment to community values, and its commitment to donate 7.5 per cent of profits to social causes.
However, in 2002 the company was accused of abusing its 'All Natural' label by the centre for Science and Public Interest and in 2005 Ben & Jerry's CEO Walt Freese admitted the company had grown soft on continuing its traditions of social consciousness.
Kellogg's bought the maker of natural cereal for an undisclosed amount.
After the acquisition, customers became afraid of Kashi using genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, known to be used in Kellogg's' cereals.
Boca is best known for its Boca Burgers, which is a meat substitute like all its other products. At the time, Kraft was still owned by mega-conglomerate -- and cigarette monolith -- Philip Morris.
The subsidiary was the target of criticism in 2009 when animal rights groups campaigned against its use of eggs that come from caged hens. All of Boca's products are now egg-free.
Lightlife produces vegetarian and vegan meat substitutes like Smart Deli slices and Smart Bacon, which made it a logical acquisition target for ConAgra, one of the world's largest packaged food companies.
But ConAgra has also fought against some natural food initiatives. In 2002, the company joined its competitors in stopping the state of Oregon's Measure 27, which would have required it to label products that have genetically-altered ingredients.
'I think everybody is now chasing nourishment.' said Odwalla President Shawn Sugarma in 2004. 'Obesity and its related health problems are a huge concern for anybody in the food business today.'
Known for blends such as C Monster, Mo' Beta, Rooty Fruity and Viva Las Veggies, the juice and natural food bar makers stopped selling the fresh-squeezed orange juice that had made Odwalla famous since it wouldn't last the days and weeks the juices are in transit or on the shelf.
After the acquisition, Tom's of Maine loyalists complained about the new toothpaste's sweet flavour, the new plastic packaging, and the new smell of deodorant soap.
Basically, they complained about everything.
An index that tracked public perception of more than 1,000 consumer brands found that 'satisfaction' with Body Shop had slumped by almost half since the deal by Body Shop founder, Dame Anita Roddick, to sell the company to L'Oréal for $1.1 billion.
Campaigners against animal testing and the Swiss multi-national Nestlé, which has a 26 per cent share in L'Oréal, also called for a boycott of Body Shop.
Pepsi's third deal that year to appeal to consumers on healthier diets after buying Stacy's Pita Chips and Izze Beverage.
Shortly after acquiring Izze Beverages, and to compete with Coca-Cola, Pepsi bought Naked juice blends and smoothies, all free from added sugars, preservatives and artificial colorings. At the time Pepsi said their healthy products line had been growing at two and a half times the rate of the rest of its portfolio.
'We're a quirky chocolate company run by a bunch of Oregon tree huggers that likes to do what we like to do regardless of what 'they' think,' said Frederick Schilling, founder of Dagoba Chocolate, known for its fair trade chocolate, at the time of the acquisition.
'If I am to truly have maximum impact on cocoa farmers and continue to influence the cocoa industry, joining the nations largest chocolate company is the right move.'
Some customers didn't think so.
Privately known as Glacéau, Energy Brands is the maker of Vitamin Energy, Fruit Water and Smart Water.
Earlier this year Coca-Cola was banned from advertising Vitamin Water as 'delicious and nutritious,' since a bottle contains the equivalent to four and five teaspoons of sugar, more than a quarter of the recommended daily intake of sugar.
After the deal went through, scores of customers called Burt's Bees and accused the company of selling out.
John Replogle, the chief executive of Burt's Bees, says he personally responded to customers who left their phone numbers.
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