Unilever megacorporation rushing to buy out small organic companies
by: J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) There must be a new motto in Corporate America: ‘If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em and then beat ’em.’
That’s one way to explain why mega-corporations like Unilever are scrambling to purchase all the hip, green start-ups, so they can control the world (or at least a huge part of it).
As reported by the Huffington Post, Unilever announced in recent days that it is making plans to purchase Seventh Generation, an eco-friendly and environmentally conscious home goods company that sells chic, green brands.
The sale would mark the latest move by Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch giant with a stock market value at around $136.2 billion, to position the company as one of the world’s leading providers of consumer and personal care goods.
Seventh Generation, a privately-held company, had U.S. sales of around $200 million in products advertised as all-natural, ranging from detergents, household cleaners, organic tampons and baby wipes. For nearly a decade, Seventh Generation – which is based in Vermont – has registered as a benefit corporation, which is a voluntary certification that mandates a company comply with very strict social-good and environmental standards.
Terms of the Unilever buyout have yet to be disclosed, and the deal has to be approved by regulators. But it marks one of the latest in a series of deals where large corporations are essentially buying out their competitors (rather than make and market a superior product).
Corporate history of mismanaging brands and changing ingredients
Furthermore, buyouts of green firms like Seventh Generation are making customers of their products question whether the original products will remain wholesome and pure, like they are now.
“Start the boycott now….. they’re only buying organic food producers so they can ram GMO poison down your throat and call it ‘organic’ (which word the FDA will be more than happy to re-define for them again)[sic],” wrote one reader here.
“Goodbye ‘organic,'” wrote another.
“The takeover of key market segments like the natural food industry by the oligarchs is similar to the takeover of the US media. Once they own it all they can force whatever sh#t they produce down our throats,” still another wrote.
There are reasons for such concern. The conventional wisdom is that corporate giants aren’t good at maintaining a startup’s business model and philosophy. Companies are not bought to make environmental statements, per se, but because they are thought to be profitable – and big corporations seek to keep them that way, even if it means altering product ingredients.
One shining example is the Kellogg company, which bought the organic cereal brand Kashi in 2000, then badly mismanaged it, forcing the firm to cut costs by replacing organic ingredients with cheaper, artificial replacements. In 2014, the Huffington Post reported, Kellogg agreed to end the practice of labeling some Kashi products as “all natural” or having “nothing artificial” as part of a class-action lawsuit settlement.
Nothing to worry about?
As for Unilever, there may be some good news for those concerned about the conglomerate changing the image and message of startups it buys. Years ago, the corporate giant appears to have adopted a sort of “hands-off” approach. When the multinational bought Ben & Jerry’s brand ice cream for $326 million in 2000, little has changed in the Vermont-based company’s political stances. It’s hippy-like, Leftist founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield continue to support liberal causes.
That is a good thing for Seventh Generation, whose CEO, John Replogle, has led rallies calling for new laws that would force makers of cleaning products to divulge all of the ingredients in their products.
Unilever spent $1 billion in July to buy Dollar Shave Club, a men’s grooming startup that has been lauded as environmentally-friendly. And in August, the conglomerate absorbed air purification startup Blueair, whose stated goal is helping “millions more people fight rising urban air pollution.”
But Unilever is also in discussions to buy the Honest Company, actress Jessica Alba’s natural consumer goods brand which has already had problems with “honesty” and purity in its products.