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