How 2017 Spelled The End Of The Hippie Food Era

If the idea wasn’t apparent that will organic food had gone corporate, the sirens clearly sounded This particular year when the retail behemoth Amazon acquired Whole Foods, which itself had already become an icon of corporatized natural food.

The acquisitions of companies from the organic food business “took off from the ’90s however right now involve bigger along with bigger companies,” said Philip Howard, a professor at Michigan State University, who has tracked the consolidation of the industry over the decades.

In 2017, the idea’s rare to find a well-known natural food brand that will isn’t owned by a huge corporation. J.M. Smucker acquired Santa Cruz Organic in 1989. General Mills bought Cascadian Farm in 1999. In 2011, Coca-Cola bought Honest Tea. along with if PepsiCo buying a kombucha maker in 2016 wasn’t enough, This particular past April, the French multinational food company Danone completed its acquisition of the vey company that will popularized soy milk with Americans, WhiteWave Foods, aka the maker of Silk milks.

“the idea can be without a doubt a different world,” said Tim Sperry, a consultant to organic products companies who has worked from the industry since the 1970s, including several years at Whole Foods.

If the global takeover of soy milk didn’t signal the end for the hippies, Whole Foods selling itself to Amazon almost certainly does. along with the idea’s just one of several alterations shaking up the organic food business as we know the idea.

Organic food proponents “had a mission: that will Americans could eat better food, could know where the idea came coming from, how the idea was grown, they’d have some assurances of quality food,” Sperry said. “We succeeded, big time. More than any of us could have ever imagined.” right now, as the folks who kicked off the movement decades ago approach retirement age, “the idea’s time for us to turn things over to a different [age] group,” he said.

For better or worse, Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods means the idea can be right now a major player from the organic foods movement.

In truth, Whole Foods was never the brainchild of a stereotypical hippie, crunchy as its tofu ginger rice muffins along with kale bouquets may be. The grocer was cofounded in 1980 by John Mackey, an anti-union libertarian who in 2012 voted for Mitt Romney. While Mackey may have a strong counterculture streak, do yoga, along with eat vegan, his book Conscious Capitalism also celebrates the “heroic story of free-enterprise capitalism” while asking business leaders to find a higher purpose.

Over the decades, the consciously capitalistic grocer, which went public in 1992, expanded by acquiring local natural foods stores — the kind of activity that will opens opportunities for some workers along with displaces others. Later mocked as “Whole Paycheck” for its high prices, the idea eventually became associated more closely with yuppies than with hippies. Perhaps the idea was fated to join forces having a shrewd business like Amazon.

Whole Foods — despite its position on unions along with some complaints that will its wages are too low — has made Fortune’s list of best employers For just two decades straight. Workers are eligible for benefits if they work at least 20 hours per week. Fortune wrote This particular year, “‘Respect’ can be one of the ‘key ingredients’ at This particular ­famously green grocery chain, which makes employees ‘feel welcome,’ ‘appreciates’ their contributions, along with pays staffers in stores ‘fairly’ with gain sharing along with bonuses when they come in under budget on labor costs.”

Any of This particular could change under Amazon, whose “bruising workplace” was detailed in a completely new York Times article. According to former along with current employees who spoke to the Times, Amazon’s corporate employees battling health problems are put on performance improvement plans, the idea isn’t unusual to see colleagues cry at their desks, along with hostile language can be a feature of the workplace. (Amazon criticized the Times’ portrayal.) some other reporting has also described difficult working conditions at the company’s warehouses. The automation-friendly retailer hasn’t commented on future employment plans, however the idea said no layoffs could result coming from its merger with Whole Foods.

Aside coming from possible alterations to Whole Foods’ corporate ethos, Amazon has clear ambitions for food retail, along with one area of focus will be lowering Whole Foods’ famous prices.

In a statement, Whole Foods said, “Amazon along with Whole Foods Market are working together to pursue the vision of creating Whole Foods Market’s high-quality, natural along with organic food affordable for everyone. Amazon along with Whole Foods Market technology teams are working to integrate Amazon Prime into the Whole Foods Market point-of-sale system, along with when This particular work can be complete, Prime members will receive special savings along with in-store benefits.”

Whole Foods, which has been struggling to compete against the quick spread of organic foods into every some other grocery store in America, has picked a partner known for beating its competition on prices. Howard said that will, since the acquisition, Whole Foods already has been dropping prices on loss leaders like chicken along with avocados, following Amazon’s pattern of pricing out competitors only to raise prices again once they’re out.

“I don’t know what Amazon can be going to do,” said Dave Chapman, an organic tomato farmer in Vermont who sells to Whole Foods. “They wipe out a lot of not bad, smaller businesses because they’re cheaper, along with we’re fighting that will [trend] in food. … the idea’s great that will your food can be affordable, however there’s always a tradeoff.”

None of the locally grown, community-supported values that will underpinned the organic food movement seem all that will relevant from the matrix Amazon has engineered. A brand’s “success or failure at Whole Foods will not necessarily translate to how you do on the internet,” Sperry predicted.

along with if Whole Foods soared on people’s passion for high-quality food, the idea seems Amazon doesn’t always offer the same in its grocery delivery, based on reviews of AmazonFresh, which noted broken eggs, snapped cucumbers, along with slimy potatoes. (Amazon did not respond to an inquiry about how the idea could eventually handle grocery delivery for Whole Foods, which can be still done by Instacart for right now.) Whole Foods said the idea has no plans to change its values under its completely new owner.

along with while the acquisition of such a quintessential chain may be symbolic of the evolving industry, the organic food world faces bigger, more troubling shifts yet.

Fraudulently labeled organic food has began cropping up in stores. The USDA inspector general in September said the idea found weaknesses from the oversight of imported organic produce, along with that will some may be treated with pesticides at the port of entry however still labeled organic.

along with some argue that will organic standards are getting watered down as mainstream companies with profit motives — like those that will have been creating investments in along with acquiring organic food makers — become more involved along with gain a stronger voice from the industry.

For instance, a brief victory for animal welfare advocates, who at the start of the year pushed through completely new rules requiring organic chickens to have more access to outdoor space, was halted This particular month when President Trump’s completely new agriculture secretary proposed to withdraw the rule, due to concerns that will the idea could “hamper market-driven innovation along with evolution along with impose unnecessary regulatory burdens.”

Pioneers see some other setbacks too. Some are concerned that will This particular year’s decision to permit organic labeling for hydroponically farmed products — meaning plants grown in a nutrient solution rather than old-fashioned soil — betrays the very essence of what organic farmers are meant to do: to work with along with protect the soil that will grows our food.

Chapman, who lobbied against allowing hydroponics into the organic system, recently said, “the idea’s the corporate takeover of the national organic program that will we’re trying to bring attention to, along with to stop.”

Right right now, the idea looks like the idea may already be too late — however the battle isn’t over quite yet.

Venessa Wong can be a business reporter for BuzzFeed News along with can be based in completely new York. Wong covers the food industry.

Contact Venessa Wong at

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