The food industry is an “industrial complex” in America. It is highly consolidated, with the vast majority of our food products being owned by just 10 companies. It is something we’ve delved deep into before in this space, but this image really seems to nail the point home that what you eat only comes from a few places and a few people.
Today’s inspiration comes from a very short article that inspires what could be a long, and even endless discussion.
The premise is as simple as the headline: Nestle to buy vitamin maker Atrium Innovations for $2.3B.
You’ve no doubt heard of Nestle, whose “brand” is most closely associated with candy bars, but the company is actually a food industry powerhouse. Nestle owns such household name products as Stouffer’s, Hot Pockets, Perrier, Coffee-mate, PowerBar, Gerber, Carnation, a bunch of cosmetic companies, pet care companies and quite a few clothing companies as well.
It is a sprawling, massive corporation with access to untold money, resources, political and human capital.
They have decided to add natural and nutritional supplements to their list of companies. Specifically the company Atrium Innovations and their brand is Garden of Life supplements.
Now, in the world of supplements, Garden of Life is actually quite good! If you go to a vitamin store because you need some Vitamin C or fish oil supplements, and you pick up a couple of bottles at random because you like the labels, you are probably going to get something fairly close to useless.
Most Vitamin C supplements are made out of a synthetic substitute called ascorbic acid. Most Vitamin D isn’t Vitamin D3–which is the required form if your body is going to absorb it. Most multivitamins are full of sugar. And almost all of them have some level of additive and preservative to ensure a certain texture, taste and/or shelf life. And that’s a very cursory critique.
However, Garden of Life is a vitamin and supplement company that goes the distance to consistently be high-quality, non-GMO, organic, non-toxic and minimal additives. Plus they know what they’re doing when it comes to what the human body needs, can absorb and can work with.
So when the same company that owns Willy Wonka, Smarties, KitKat, Hot Pockets, Sweet Tarts and Dreyer’s Ice Cream buys a company like this, it’s sort of like a disturbance in the force. A light that once shone in the world will inevitably be snuffed out.
Of course, there’s no telling exactly what will happen. Perhaps Nestle will let the company continue its current mission, but with more resources. Maybe it will be something of a good thing.
However, when massive companies take over smaller companies, they send in management consultants and accountants and organizational designers who look at the books, the numbers, measurements of productivity, waste and efficiency.
They start saying things like… “Does that ingredient really HAVE to be organic? Or if we get the cheaper version, is it still within our legal rights to call it organic?”
“I see we’re spending $$$ on this all-natural supplement capsule every year. What if we substituted it for this synthetic version? We’d save 0.001 cent per capsule!”
Of course, old-timers at the company object, put up a fuss, maybe even quit. But then who’s left?
It sounds so grim. But the good news is that for branding and marketing reasons, there’s a good chance Garden of Life will retain much of its mission.
However, things WILL change. And they will change throughout the food, supplement and health industries. There is no stopping it. Our only recourse is to be informed. Of course, we try to keep you up to date on this blog, but there is only so much we can do.
Here is a list of great sites that will keep you up-to-date:
- Surprisingly, www.reddit.com/r/health
Also, as always, the truth is found in the money. If you really want to know what’s going on in the world, you’ve got to follow the money and to do that, you’ve got to follow financial news. Politics is a smokescreen. This is where the real power lies.
The burden of responsibility for knowledge is on you. And we all have that burden. Do what you can; decide accordingly.