Whether or not these big companies change the products themselves, they’re also gaining more power over the market, making it harder for more truly socially conscious food startups to compete.
All of this prompts the question: Is selling out inevitable for sustainable food companies?
Equal Exchange, the Fair Trade, worker-owned coffee producer, says it’s not. The company issued a statement recently to that effect, citing the Applegate Farms sale. Equal Exchange believes that “more mission-driven companies like ourselves and so many small food enterprises would stay independent, and on mission, if they only knew a way to raise capital on their own terms—not those of Wall Street or private equity firms. Then they wouldn’t feel as pressured to turn over the keys of their baby to Hormel, Coke, or General Mills.”
According to Applegate spokeswoman Gina Asoudegan, “Applegate’s agreement with Hormel was not about raising capital. Given the health issues of our founder and CEO, there were other considerations like succession and leadership of the company that had nothing to do with financing.” That said, she added that, “Equal Exchange provides a great alternative for smaller, mission-driven companies to get the financial backing they need to keep going.”
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