Earth Balance’s 100% Natural? 100% Meaningless. Agree? Share this.

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“Natural” is the verbal equivalent to putting a leaf on your logo—and it means just as much.

A supplication to one of my favorite companies, Earth Balance, to join Ben & Jerry’s and cut the by-definition deceptive term “natural” from its marketing and packaging. Agree with me? Show your dislike for “natural” and share this on your wall or tweet this post, let’s build a mini-movement—a company as aware and appreciative of new and social media as Earth Balance might just consider changing its marketing.

Because that’s all it is: marketing.


…Ben & Jerry’s, the Vermont ice cream brand that is synonymous with funky flavors and environmentally and socially responsible behavior, agreed to phase out its use of the term “All Natural” for ice creams and frozen yogurts that contain processed or artificial ingredients…for the rest.



Because “pesticide” is just a fancy word for “poison.”

Flavor first.

Why “pick on” Earth Balance? Because they’re one of my favorite companies—a thoughtful, mindful company that just might choose to be among the first “natural products” companies to get more specific about the positive things that their product does offer.

Non-gmo? Say so. Fair-trade? Say so.

Natural? Not sure what that means—and neither is the FDA.

“Natural” is not a term regulated or defined by the FDA—or anyone. So you could pour toxic neon glue into a pretty plastic package and call it 100% natural—after all, as Republican friends of mine like to say, chemicals come from the earth, too.

Buy organic.

Many companies—including one of my faves, Earth Balance (which has an organic soy milk out in stores, now)—offer a range of conventional (pesticides, genetically-modified-organisms) and “all natural” (which sometimes means gmo-free, as in the case of EB) to organic products.

Care not only about our earth’s health, but yours and your family’s, too? There’s only one choice.

Buy organic.

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About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & 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. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


8 Responses to “Earth Balance’s 100% Natural? 100% Meaningless. Agree? Share this.”

  1. TJ McIntyre says:


    Curious as to the timing on you deciding to attack Earth Balance out of nowhere. This doesn’t have anything to do with our stalled ‘advertising with Elephant’ conversation does it?

    To address your ‘natural is meaningless’… you couldn’t be more wrong. The American food system is loaded with artificial ingredients and the natural foods industry has created some standards that are generally recognizable… and leading retailers like Whole Foods have a specific list of ‘no no ingredients’. Is it Organic?… no. But some consumers are motivated to avoid artificial flavors, artificial ingredients, MSG, partially hydrogenated oils, etc. Eating real food, made from real ingredients is the basis of the natural foods movement… then the second stage is layering in attention to the way the food itself was grown, especially considering the inputs into the process (hence the organic movement).

    What the natural foods industry needs is not someone with your voice dismissing the cause, but instead seeking to improve it.

    If a company put “toxic neon glue in a pretty plastic package” like you mention above… a few things would happen do to the progress the natural foods industry has made over the last 2 decades:
    1) it wouldn’t get distribution with natural products… an important form of identity
    2) it wouldn’t be adopted by consumers… because those interested in natural products are information intensive (and informed)
    3) the company behind the green washing would be called out (7-Up is key example when they claimed ‘all natural’ and used high fructose corn syrup

    As to Earth Balance ‘Natural Buttery Spreads’… we compete in the margarine category as the only natural version of spreads. Our competitors have partially hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors and now interesterified oils (FDA doesn’t demand this new process be identified on the label, but it is just as toxic or more than PHO). Many of the consumers who embrace Earth Balance for dairy avoidance purposes… but those same people are motivated to buy all natural products at the same time. We sell Organic and Natural… the Natural item is about 15-20% cheaper on a per ounce basis… and it is our #1 seller. So, I’d argue, at least in the case of Earth Balance… our consumers have made the choice for themselves… they absolutely support organic, but they support natural as well.

    Without a doubt, Organic is the goal… but while we pursue the highest order I can’t see how it makes sense to denigrate 25-30 years worth of unbelievable effort on the behalf of natural foods pioneers and consumers… and this is coming from someone who, in my own 15 years of experience in the natural foods industry has introduced exclusively certified organic products (well over 150 at this point).

    • elephantjournal says:

      Thanks, TJ, for this thoughtful response—more thoughtful than the term "natural," which is I'm sure you can agree is so general as to be misleading.

      We've criticized you and many other companies many times before—unlike many of our peers, we criticize current advertisers, too. And our criticism, which you failed to note, is respectful (above, I took pains to explain you were a favorite company of mine, which is true), honest and fair. I'm sure, if you value transparency, that you were happy to see such questions raised by your friend, Waylon.

      BTW, your advertising isn't stalled—you said you weren't interested. I'd say that's "stop", not "pause." Just to continue my interest in being clear about the terms you use.

      ~ Waylon

  2. candicegarrett says:

    It's like the word "virtually" in advertising. Which really doesn't mean anything like what consumers think. Usually attributed to "almost" but really means "in essence but not in fact." Think about that the next time something says your hair will be "virtually" healthy or your counters "virtually" clean.

  3. Aunty says:

    Ugh! Now I'm rethinking that tub of Eb in my fridge…

    • elephantjournal says:

      Hunh. That wasn't quite my point. It's a great vegan alternative to butter—I buy it regularly. I'm just urging folks to support the organic option, not "natural"—and to share this on your Wall or comment or "like" if you agree.

      Earth Balance is a great company. Ironically, their soy milk is all organic, and that's why they've been chosen to replace Silk soy milk in Whole Foods across the country.

  4. Robert Ackerlind says:

    Until now I eat earth balance organic buttery spread. I think I will now look for another source for an organic butter substitute because i just took it out of the fridge and read the label. It says right on the front "79% Natural Oils". What the heck are the other 23% of oils? Have I been eating petroleum?. Eww.

  5. […] 2. You read labels. Your eyes dilate when you see an organic certification, and narrow when you see “all natural!” […]

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