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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegetarianism in the News

July 23, 2002 -- Vegparadise News Bureau

Dairy Giant Swallows White Wave

Merger mania has enveloped the soy industry as another small independent company has been swallowed by a giant conglomerate.

Fans of Silk soymilks and soy yogurts as well as other White Wave soy products may not realize that White Wave has been purchased by Dean Foods, the largest dairy company in the U.S.

Dean Foods originally assumed a small interest in White Wave in August 1999. Dean Food's share in the soy producer gradually increased to 36% until this year when it decided to buy the remaining 64% of the company.

Dean Foods itself is the result of the merger of two dairy giants, number one producer Suiza Foods and number two Dean Foods. The combined company is now known as Dean Foods.

Ironically, the merger also results in the same company owning two competing refrigerated soymilk products, Sun Soy by Suiza and Silk by White Wave. Silk currently sells approximately 75% of refrigerated soymilk in the U.S.

White Wave had previously sued Dean Foods for violating an agreement that prohibited Dean Foods from transferring its White Wave shares to any other company without giving White Wave the opportunity to buy back its shares. The suit was dismissed by a federal judge. White Wave feared that Sun Soy owner Suiza would gain control over its operation.

The Dean-Suiza-White Wave combination is the latest in a series of mergers in the natural food industry. Large corporations, noticing the growing public demand for vegetarian and natural food products, have moved into this niche by purchasing smaller successful independent companies.

  • Phillip Morris's Kraft Division absorbed Chicago-based Boca Burger.
  • General Mills purchased Small Planet Foods that markets Muir Glen Organic Tomato Products and Cascadian Farms foods. Since the purchase Cascadian Farms sells frozen foods containing chicken, departing from their policy of producing only vegetarian foods.
  • Heinz has a 20 % stake in Hain Food Group that markets under labels like Arrowhead Mills, Celestial Seasonings, Casbah, De Boles, Health Valley, Hollywood, Westbrae, and Westsoy.
  • Kellogg's bought Kashi, a whole-grain cereal company, and Worthington Foods that sells Morningstar Farms, Natural Touch, and Loma Linda products in addition to their Worthington brand.
  • ConAgra, a giant agribusiness conglomerate, owns Lightlife, the manufacturer of vegan meat substitutes like Gimme Lean, Smart Dogs, Foney Boloney, Smart Deli Slices, and more.
  • Pepsico by purchasing Quaker Oats acquired Mothers Natural Foods and Near East Food Products.

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