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36
STRATEGY

Feeling Squeezed
 

When natural-product stars sell their beloved brands to big corporations, they risk losing control of their products and their mission. But one thing's for sure: The money is good.
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Ben & Jerry's

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, high priests of hippie capitalism, became household names with their quirky all-natural flavors and used their company to champion progressive causes such as nonviolence and family farming.

Sold to: Unilever, in 2000, for $326 million

The Fallout: The brand's emphasis on social activism has waned, and cost pressures have led to changes in packaging, pay, and employee benefits.

Burt's Bees

Founders Roxanne Quimby and Burt Shavitz first sold their beeswax products at craft fairs. Now the all-natural lip balms and lotions in eco-friendly packaging are sold at Target and CVS. Quimby says that after selling, she spent $50 million to buy and conserve land in Maine.

Sold to: Clorox, in 2007, for $913 million

The Fallout: Organic advocates are less than thrilled about the Clorox connection. But so far there's no sign of changes to the company's products or business practices.

Tom's of Maine

Tom and Kate Chapell started out, in 1970, selling phosphate-free laundry detergent. Their product line now centers on toothpastes and deodorants.

Sold to: Colgate-Palmolive, which bought an 84 percent stake, in 2006, for $100 million

The Fallout: Ownership by Colgate caused Tom's to lose its top ethics rating from an influential British consumer group.

Stonyfield Farm

What began in 1983 as a school for organic farming turned into the world's largest maker of organic yogurt. Stonyfield donates 10 percent of its profits to support sustainable agriculture and other causes.

Sold to: Groupe Danone, which bought a 40 percent stake, in 2002, and raised it to 80 percent, in 2004.

The Fallout: Under the highly praised deal, CEO Gary Hirshberg still runs the company independently and helps promote the parent company's sustainability efforts.

White Wave

Tofu maker White Wave introduced Silk Soymilk, in 1996, as an alternative to dairy. It's now a supermarket staple.

Sold to: Dean Foods, in 2002, for $204 million

The Fallout: Dean ousted founder Steve Demos in 2005. Organic farmers in the U.S. complain that some soybeans now come from China.

Last updated: May 1, 2008




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