September 2, 2009

Bear Naked and the “build-a-great-little-green-brand-then…sell-out-to-The-Man-for-millions” phenomenon.

Bear Naked & Company:

Success Stories or Natural Products Sell-outs?

Can you turn the world greener, and get rich doing so?

An open question on the Eve of Naturally Boulder Days, given that several of the presenters are Millionaires who Sold their companies to The Man for Millions.

Via Wikipedia: Bear Naked is a natural food company with some organic products that was founded in 2002 by Brendan Synnott and Kelly Flatley. In November 2007, Bear Naked was sold to Kashi Company, a subsidiary of Kellogg’s. At the time of the sale, Bear Naked had gained control of a large portion of the granola market and was the second largest granola brand in the United States behind Quaker. The acquisition price of Bear Naked was not disclosed directly, although Kellogg’s reported that it acquired Bear Naked and Gardenburger for a combined price of $122 million.

I’ve had conflicted feelings about the build-a-great-little-green-brand-then…sell-out-to-The-Man-for-millions phenomenon that is the Natural Products industry for years. The list of great little green sell-outs is long, and drips with money and promises for continued green integrity: Odwalla, Boca Burgers, Naked, Cascadian, Muir Glen, Green & Black’s, Horizon, Silk, Dagoba, Larabar, Wild Oats (sort of), Ben & Jerry’s (sort of), Bearito’s, Kashi, The Organic Cow, Alta Dena, Lightlife, Alexie, Back to Nature, Gardenburger, Bear Naked, Morningstar Farms, Seeds of Change, Debole’s, Arrowhead, Westsoy, Little Bear, Westbrae, Garden of Eatin’, Nile Spice, Breadshop, Casbah, Health Valley, Celestial Seasonings, Natural Touch, Tofutown, Spectrum Organics, Mountain Sun (the juice), Rice Dream, Earth’s Best, Health Valley…

Now, getting rich while turning the business world greener is, on the other hand, my dream. But selling out at the end of the yellow brick road…taking your millions and moving on, while your brand gets compromised by The Man year after year (as in the case of Burt’s Bees, Dagoba, or Silk Soy)…has got to rot your gut a bit.

So, I guess, the devil’s in the details. If you sell to a big corporation that understands that the brand you built is best left well enough alone, well then you got your cake and you get to eat it, too. But if you sell to say, Dean, you might find that they like your name, and don’t care what’s inside the package just so long as their bottomline stays deep, dark green.

Are companies that stay not-huge deliberately, like Patagonia, an old-fashioned anachronism?

Is there a way to get rich without selling out (I’ve heard that the founder of Outside Magazine, one of very few indie mags left, makes $10 mill plus a year)?

Or is selling to a big, rich, uncaring company just how we green The Man from within? And can you assure such “greening from within” if you give up the reins?

Relephant bonus: how to get Rich without Selling out:

Read 10 Comments and Reply

Read 10 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Elephant Journal  |  Contribution: 1,510,485