Why I (quite frankly) don’t care about Annie’s being sold to General Mills

A couple weeks ago, maybe the worst thing to ever happen to organic consumers went down….

Annie’s Homegrown was sold to the food giant General Mills.

You know Annie’s…. that cute little Organic Bunny in the Mac and Cheese aisle.

You know General Mills… arguably one of the top ten food companies, makes sugary and addictive cereals, and unabashedly uses GMOs in their products.

Just as quickly as this news came out, the outcries from the general population started.  If you scroll through Annie’s Facebook page, you can see comments of “disappointment”, “selling-out”, “disgust”,”shame”, “crossing the line”, and “COMMENTS IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.”

Whoa people, whoa.  

The reason for the outcry is because General Mills is rumored to have spent close to $1.8 million to prevent GMO labeling in the last few years.  Annie’s has spoken out in favor of GMO labeling and contributed $60,000 to help the cause.

I am the last person you will see lining up to defend Big Food.  But I think we should all be looking at this move as a good sign.

There is a trend.

General Mills is not stupid.  There is a grassroots movement gaining steam in this country that is demanding organic, non-GMO options.  In fact, sales of organic foods more than doubled from 2004 to 2012, from $11 billion to $27 billion and is expected to grow 14% between 2013 and 2018.

Of course General Mills bought Annie’s.  GM has been around the block and is not inept at identifying a great business opportunity.  I doubt they would buy a company that was not a threat or had no income potential.

GM could also be hedging their bets in case GMO labeling is approved in the near future- they now own a ready made, GMO free trailblazer.

And in Annie’s defense, this may be an opportunity to increase their market share, to play with the big boys, and in the words of Sheryl Sandberg, “Sit at the Table.”

Of course I don’t know any of this, I wasn’t sitting in the board room.  But in all reality, one of two things will most likely happen.

  1. GM may allow Annie’s to continue to thrive and reach a demographic they’ve had trouble reaching in the past.  
  2. They will use the sale to stifle the GMO labeling momentum that Annie’s has helped create.

Either way……..

I just don’t care.

I don’t care because this does not impact my life.  It does not impact the way I grocery shop.  And it certainly does not impact my ability to lead a healthy life.  My shelves are not stacked with boxed, organically labeled food.

Annie’s is great for an occasional treat, but it my opinion, it should not be a staple of your diet.  And here is why:

  1. Organic can be a farce.  Ok, that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but let’s look at what the label actually means:
    • For processed foods, an organic label means that no less than 95% of ingredients are organic quality (but it may contain sugars and oils that are damaging to your health).  
    • For meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy, the animals were given no antibiotics or growth hormones (but still may have been kept in confined, inhumane spaces and fed a diet that does not in any way resemble the natural diet).  
    • For plants, it means they were produced without using most conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge, bio-engineering, or ionizing radiation (but may have been shipped halfway across the world, wrecking the environment and decreasing the nutrient content).
  2. Organic foods can still make you fat.  As stated above. just because something is labeled organic, does not mean that it is healthy or even beneficial.  Have you ever walked down the Organic aisle at your local grocers and counted the number of organic cookies?  When did a cookie become a good choice for a healthy diet?  That’s a trick question… it didn’t.  It is still going to cause a spike in insulin, cause a blood sugar crash, and make you crave more sweets.  Plus, all that sugar will eventually store as fat.  And in the case of Annie’s…. let’s see: mac and cheese, crackers, cookies, pretzels, and fruit snacks.  All highly processed carbohydrate sources that will wreck your metabolism.
  3. Organic Foods can still have toxic ingredients.  You can farm organic wheat but to a someone with Celiac’s or a gluten intolerance, it’s pretty toxic.  It’s possible to make organic sugar, but sugar is still pretty much toxic to all of us (it’s just a slower burn).  And again, since we’re talking about Annie’s, let’s look at their Organic Cowgirl Ranch Dressing.  The first ingredient is Expeller pressed vegetable oil (Canola or Sunflower).  These oils contain high amounts of Omega-6’s, are highly inflammatory in the body, and are not shelf stable (meaning they can go rancid very easily).  

I will happily admit- I love me some mac and cheese.  When I have had a hankering and I know it won’t impact my goals (ok, sometimes even if it does), I indulge in Annie’s Gluten Free Mac and Cheese.  But not under the guise that this processed product was healthy for me.  Under the understanding that this was at least better than some other options.

My point here is that if your world was totally wrecked by the “sell-out” of Annie’s, I am calling out an opportunity to look at your buying habits.

  • Instead of relying on a food manufacture to tell you what is in your meal, go hug a local farmer.  
  • Start a garden.  
  • Visit the farmer’s market.  
  • Join a CSA.  
  • Buy into a service that delivers directly to your door.  
  • Buy your meat directly from a local, grass-fed operation.  
  • Spend most of your time on the outside aisles of the grocery store.

Eat whole sources of meats, fish, veggies, fruit, nuts, oils, and seasonings.  Cook and prep your meals and snacks as much as possible.  Reserve products like Annie’s for times when you have a treat.

I don’t want this article to come off like I’m ambivalent about our food system.  Trust me, I care deeply.  But when it comes to one highly processed food manufacturer buying another highly processed food manufacturer, I just don’t care.

What do you think of this acquisition?  Do you care?  Do you agree or disagree with me?



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