Many parents are worrying that those adorable Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies are about to start getting a dusting of Cinnamon Toast Crunch powder — not to mention coming with their very own Toaster Strudel icing packets.
Annie’s Homegrown has been manufacturing products with organic and natural ingredients for the last 25 years, but they’re about to become part of the General Mills family.
Annie’s CEO John Foraker announced the $820 million acquisition on September 8, describing the deal as an exciting “strategic combination.” The Berkeley, CA business markets more than 145 products and is sold in more than 35,000 retail locations in the U.S. and Canada.
Longtime Annie’s customers are taking to social media to express their distaste for the acquisition, with many calling the brand “a sell-out” that “sold their soul” and some declaring that they are “completely disgusted” by the news.
The majority of the angry comments voice fears that Annie’s products will start to contain genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) — which GM fully admits to using in many of their products.
“I love Annie’s Homegrown, and now you’ve broken my heart,” one customer wrote on the brand’s Facebook page. “This is sad, sad news and a very sad day because if General Mills now owns Annie’s Homegrown then I will have to leave it off my shopping list — along with all the other General Mills products. So long, Annie.”
General Mills has publicly opposed state-based labeling, so many of Annie’s customers have decided to stop purchasing the products immediately, since there’s no telling when — or if — the source of the ingredients will change.
Annie’s packaging includes the phrase “Simplicity, care, and goodness in all of our products,” and many customers feel they won’t get the same quality of product if it’s coming from a global food giant like General Mills — whose brands include Haagen-Dazs, Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, and Old El Paso.
Annie’s Homegrown responded to several customers on their Facebook page, insisting that their brand will remain dedicated to their ingredient promise and to transparent labeling practices — with no artificial flavors, synthetic colors, preservatives, or GMOs.
“Watch us — we won’t let you down,” writes an Annie’s spokesperson. “While we expect our products to be more readily available on store shelves nationwide, you can trust that our products will remain the same down-to-earth foods that we’ve always offered.”
UPDATED (3:36 p.m. EST) Annie’s Homegrown responded to this post via Twitter, offering: “Our dedication to sourcing organic & natural non-GMO ingredients won’t change. Watch our actions – we won’t let you down.”
UPDATED (5:50 p.m. EST) Annie’s Homegrown CEO John Foraker responded to our tweet, offering: “@scratchorsniff YES!!!! @annieshomegrown we are #notchanging.”
While many customers are swearing off the Annie’s brand forever, it would be fair to give them a chance to prove themselves. GM also owns organic, natural brands like Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, and Larabar. Since they’re continuing to manufacture those products without trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, growth hormones, artificial flavors, or artificial colors, there’s a good chance they’re not planning on sullying Annie’s good name.
You can also bet that natural food retailers will be going through Annie’s future ingredients labels with a fine-toothed comb — waiting for the nacho cheese crumbs to be listed. If GM steers Annie’s beloved products down an unhealthy path, these retailers will be the first ones to yank them from the shelves.
In related news, So Delicious was recently acquired by The WhiteWave Foods Company — the makers of Silk products — for $195 million. The So Delicious brand is known for plant-based non-GMO beverages (coconut, almond and cashew milks), creamers, cultured products, and frozen desserts.
Parents of children with food allergies expressed concern on the brand’s Facebook page that So Delicious’s world-class allergen testing program would be altered — or their historic record of never having any incidents of cross-contamination would be destroyed. Reps from So Delicious insist that WhiteWave also has strong allergen control protocols, as well as strict cleaning and sanitation procedures, but parents are fighting back to say that their children have had reactions to Silk products as a result of cross-contamination.
One consumer called the brand’s Q&A “vague” and said it didn’t address the public’s questions about if the facilities would remain dairy-free. “I’m not feeling any better about this. It’s really upsetting for us who have only a handful of companies we really trust,” she wrote on the brand’s Facebook page. “I really could cry knowing that WhiteWave may make changes that would ruin this one.” More than 70 other concerned consumers “liked” her post.
WhiteWave has been in the news recently for their decision to remove carrageenan — a controversial emulsifier that can cause gastrointestinal inflammation and higher rates of intestinal lesions, ulcerations, and even malignant tumors — from several of their milk products.
H/T to Prevention.com