Whole Foods is taking a look at its standards as lesser known products begin to fill the shelves. Among the companies experiencing a loss in shelf space is Broomfield- based Silk soymilk. Silk makes up about 70% of soy milk sales and has annual revenue of around $500 million, yet Whole Foods is choosing to distance themselves from the brand.
In 2009 Silk switched from using organic to conventional soy beans in their products resulting in a back-lash from Whole Food consumers who claimed the grocery store only provided organic foods. The Organic Consumers Association called for a boycott of the soymilk after it did not clearly change the packaging to signify the switch from organic to conventional. It was later published that Silk had switched its soybean source from inside North America to a cheaper location in China. A spokesperson said that if Silk were to stay with the organic beans it would have resulted in a price increase for the company.
In attempt to rebuild confidence in the brand Silk added a traceability function to their website in 2010. This allows consumers to trace the origin of the soybeans used in Silk’s products down to the county level. Silk is also working with the nonprofit, The Non-GMO Project to officially verify Silk products. Silk hopes that the Non-GMO labeling will help improve the credibility of the brand. Megan Westgate, the executive directors of the Non-GMO project said the following about working with Silk, “”With more than 20 million consumers nationwide and an exceptionally high volume of soybeans, all from North America, Silk is a tremendous ally. The verification of their beverage portfolio is an enormous boost to our non-profit mission of providing the public with an informed choice and preserving a non-GMO ingredient supply for the future.”
Despite the company’s efforts to rebuild confidence in the Silk brand, interest groups such as The Cornucopia Institute are still boycotting the brand. Even Whole Foods switched suppliers from Dean Foods (the producer of Silk) to Earth Balance. Earth Balance is based in Longmont, Colorado and only introduces a soymilk line this past July. What makes this company more appealing to Whole Foods is their dedication to being organic.
Whole Foods will have no trouble slowly phasing Silk products out of their stores. In addition to Earth Balance there are many other up and coming organic brands such as 8th Continent, Eden Foods and Organic Valley. These smaller brands are jumping at the chance to take over Silk’s consumer base.