Soymilk Switch Causes Suspicion

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WholeFoods Magazine Staff
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Broomfield, CO—WhiteWave Foods, which operates under Dallas, TX-based Dean Foods, has been under the microscope lately about the transition of its Silk soymilk from organic to non-organic. In early 2009, the company quietly removed the word “organic” from the familiar blue Silk soymilk cartons, unbeknownst to many retailers and consumers across the nation. Dean did not initially change the product’s identifying bar code, package design or significantly alter the price—indicators that would have been noticed by store owners, some of whom now feel a bit deceived. Many stores may have also seen their fair share of trouble as a result of the term “organic” appearing on advertisements that appeared months after the change. Rachel Humphrey, co-owner of the retail store Good Earth Natural Foods based in Utah, says, “I think it was negligent on their part! Silk is pretty much our main soymilk and we had a customer ask us how come we didn't carry any organic. That is when we discovered it. It's pretty embarrassing to not know what is on our shelf.  There is no way to scrutinize each product like that nor should we expect to. Frustrating!”

According to Sara Loveday, marketing communications manager for the company, “We absolutely informed our retailers—without them we wouldn’t have a marketplace for our products. For distributors, we provided updated information about our product offerings well in advance of the launch so they could update their order books. Independent stores would have learned of the change through their distributors.”

Regarding the bar codes, “The natural product did not require a new UPC code due to the fact that we changed the type of bean (an ingredient) we use, and did not implement a major reformulation,” says Loveday. This change in soybeans was also of concern. Natural soybeans are cheaper, but are not as strictly regulated as those certified as organic. “Silk’s natural products are made with non-GMO beans and do not contain artificial colors or ingredients,” confirms Loveday. “From seed to manufacturing, beans are tested four times to ensure they are GMO-free.”

Dean has since reintroduced an organic Silk line, which is in green packaging sporting a new barcode, but is less widely available. The company maintains that its “sales team informed retailers, distributors and brokers about both the natural and organic offerings.”

 

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, January 2010