Whole Foods dumps Silk Soy in favor of organic brands. {video}

Via Waylon Lewis
on Sep 24, 2010
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Update: just got a social media double shout-out by Silk and WhiteWave. Got to admit they embrace respectful, fair criticism, always a good sign for the future integrity of a company. Like them here or here on FB.

Key Update: via the good folks at at Silk Soy:

[Dear Waylon]

Just wanted to chime in quickly regarding your [article]. We appreciate your level of objectivity, and the fact that you allowed us to answer your questions in the video. However some of the other articles you link to are a bit misleading, and the headline is inaccurate.

Silk actually hasn’t been kicked out of Whole Foods. They have limited our distribution in a few regions, but there are still a large number of stores carrying our Organic and Natural products.

[editor’s note: this represents a hugely important point—one that contradicts all the other articles I’d read, some of which are linked/referenced below.]

And while we are now offering the Natural soymilk options, we’re still the leading organic provider out there. Just to add a little context, we sell three times as much organic soymilk than all of our competitors combined. Which means we support more organic soybean acres than anyone else in the U.S. as well.

[editor’s note: For now: getting even partially booted out of Whole Foods will change that balance significantly—an article I read estimated that a Silk Soy rival, Earth Balance, will nearly double in revenues overnight.]

[editor’s note: love it. So no Silk beans from South America, China?]

After a few of the stories you link to hit, we offered up some additional facts via our blog, which you can see here and here…

…We appreciate your willingness to hear and feature our side of the story, journalists like you keep companies like us honest. Hopefully we can continue to work together and keep the dialogue going.

[editor’s note: I invite you, JB, to post any response on elephant’s forum—happy to help you respond in kind, as I know it can be tough to get the word out. One final note: $29 million in 2010 alone?! (see bottom of this blog)]

Every bean we source, organic and natural, is done so domestically. We do not source any beans (or other ingredients) from China. Soon, you’ll be able to see where those beans come from down to the county, as we’re poised to launch a new online tracking tool to add more transparency to our sourcing operations.

WhiteWave Foods

Whole Foods: we’ll no longer carry Dean Food’s Silk Soy milk, instead will go with organic brands.

Last year, Silk Soy—while continuing to offer a slightly higher-priced organic option—pushed the majority of its offerings to conventional or, rather, “natural” (the beans still weren’t Genetically-modified [GMO], which is great).

It was a blow to the organic movement that changed Silk, overnight, from the world’s largest organic brand into, well, not.

Recently, I interviewed my friends at the Dean Foods’ owned White Wave/Silk Soy about the change. To their credit, they were open about the up- and downsides.

See the second half of the below video of elephant editor Waylon Lewis’ adventure at the recent Natural Products Expo West in LA, here:

Whole Foods dumps Silk Soy.

Silk, started by one of Boulder, Colorado’s natural products titans, Steve Demos, and now owned and controlled by mega-corp Dean Foods, was just dealt what must come as a pretty big blow—they’ve been cleaved from their strongest customer base—the conscious consumers who built Silk, back when it was owned by Mr. Demos, into a major player and first real alternative to milk.

For more, click here or here or here or here. Or here.

Excerpt via elephriend Alica Wallace of Boulder Daily Camera:

Move comes in wake of WhiteWave shifting Silk away from certified organic soybeans

Fourteen years ago, a burgeoning Boulder company — White Wave Inc. — was responsible for launching Silk soymilk, a brand that is now the category leader.

So when Whole Foods Market wanted to boost its organic soymilk options a year after Dean Foods’ WhiteWave Foods shifted most of its Silk products away from certified organic soybeans, the Austin, Texas, grocer turned to a burgeoning Boulder County firm — one stocked with former White Wave employees.

Whole Foods this week announced an agreement with Longmont-based Earth Balance under which the natural foods division of New Jersey-based spreads company Smart Balance Inc. would launch its line of organic soymilks at Whole Foods stores nationwide…for the rest, click here.

I’ll leave you with a remarkable, though tangential factoid:

“The NY Times reports that Silk spent $29.1 million on advertising in major media last year.”



About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


8 Responses to “Whole Foods dumps Silk Soy in favor of organic brands. {video}”

  1. Magda M says:

    I was very disappointent when they went "natural" – why?! I don't drink it but my sister gulps their milk and it's rather worrisome. Good to know that the beans are not gmo. Phew. Looking forward to learning more about their choice to go from "organic" to "natural".

  2. Stephanie Bernstein says:

    Let's hope they do the same with corn products . . .

  3. Yeshe Dorje says:

    Lots and lots and lots of other non-dairy "milks" to drink – including quite a few that are certified organic. Two of my favorites are almond and hemp. Mmmm…

  4. kate says:

    I was pregnant and in love with their soymilk when one day I noticed the carton no longer said ORGANIC on it! For me that's not something to quietly change. Maybe I was out of some loop somewhere that informed consumers they wouldn't be organic unless you bought a specific kind. I haven't bought it since then and have started making almond milk.

  5. elephantjournal says:

    They answer why in the video above…though yes, I agree is was a sad if understandable decision.

  6. elephantjournal says:

    Right: the more I think about this the more I think it was a convenient, if dramatic action–they had other good options to go with and wanted to prioritize their own in-store organic brand. In any case, all for promoting organic!

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  8. J_Ballentine says:

    Thanks for the offer, Waylon. This is JB, chiming in from Silk.

    Awhile back Craig Shiesley, president of our Silk brand, addressed this issue on our blog. You can read what he had to say here: http://bit.ly/dn8cNF, as well as a follow up to that post here: http://bit.ly/9msEwm

    And yes you’re correct, all our beans come from here in the U.S.; nothing from South America or China.

    As far as our advertising budget goes – we’re doing as much as we can to help build the category. And it's not just TV commercials and print ads; we work with scientists, nutritionists and other professional experts to help educate and push out all the good things about soy (of course we’ve also got some great fans out there spreading the word as well – http://bit.ly/aHk2Xj).

    Thanks again for the opportunity to tell our side of the story.