If the scuttlebutt is true – and several reliable sources say it is – the environmentally friendly food company Annie's Homegrown has been bought out by General Mills.
Since 1989, vegetarians and organic fans have come to trust Annie's for its wholesome, organic food products, particularly the delicious Shells and Real Aged Cheddar macaroni product and the rabbit-shaped cheese cracker called Cheddar Bunnies. The company developed a gluten-free line of products as well, including gluten-free rice pasta with cheese.
Not a Vegan Company, But . . .
As a manufacturer of many cheese-oriented products, Annie's obviously isn't a vegan food company. However, Annie's does purchase many of its dairy products from Organic Valley Dairy Farmers, an animal-centered conglomerate of small farms that focuses on keeping cows happy and healthy. (Check out a heartwarming video about Organic Valley Dairy Farmers here.) The cows graze in pastures, never receive any antibiotics or hormones, and eat non-GMO themselves. That's the way it should be, according to many readers here at the Flaming Vegan.
But now that General Mills is stirring the pot, will the ingredients of the pot change? Will Annie's yield to the demands of big business and start using less-than-stellar ingredients in its foods?
General Mills and Annie's: Conflicting Views on GMOs
General Mills declares on its own website that a “broad global consensus” dictates that genetically modified foods are safe. It lists the U.N World Health Organization, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency among its trusted, pro-GMO allies. Not surprisingly, General Mills has fought against government mandates that would require GMO-laden products to be labeled on their packaging. Annie's, in contrast, has vocally supported the labeling requirement.
General Mills admits that, in spite of the “evidence” it provides, “we know that some consumers remain uncomfortable with GMOs.” And perhaps that is why the company purchased Annie's for a cash sum of $820 million. To protect its reputation as a mass food producer that cares. To appease those who shun GMOs in favor of more environmentally friendly – albeit more expensive – food products.
What Will Happen to the Food Now?
Now here's the rub. If General Mills takes over Annie's, will it continue to allow the company to use organic ingredients and well-loved dairy cows for its products? Or will Annie's ultimately sink to the level of the GMO producers that so many vegans, vegetarians, and other health-conscious people despise?
According to Annie's Homegrown CEO John Foraker, the recipes will not change. Foraker released an upbeat statement about the acquisition, stating that he believes the partnership will help Annie's become a more efficient company while simultaneously spreading its love of organic food products to even more people. This could be true. In an ideal world, this would be true.
Still, many Annie's fans are upset by the business transaction, which looks an awful lot like “selling out" in the eyes of a skeptic. What do you think? Under the thumb of GMO-supporter General Mills, will Annie's Homegrown be able to stay true to the ideals that sparked its inception back in 1989? If you've purchased Annie's products in the past, will you continue to do so?
*Image via Flickr by Mike Mozart