Soy Score Card
Excerpt below from page 27 of 54 of Behind the Bean Report
Another brand of soymilk that chose not to participate in our scorecard project was the industry’s largest producer of soymilk, in addition to other soy products, Silk. WhiteWave, which markets Silk soymilk, is a subsidiary of Dean Foods. Dean Foods is the largest processor and distributor of dairy products in the United States, with $11 billion in sales in 2007.57 In his book, Organic Inc., author Sam Fromartz provides an excellent account of WhiteWave’s transformation from a small, values-driven company to a subsidiary of the corporate giant Dean Foods. When Steve Demos, the founder of WhiteWave, started manufacturing soymilk and tofu, he “wanted to prove to the profit-makers that [he] had a better model, based on values.”58 After Dean Foods bought WhiteWave in 2002, the company’s quest to increase profitability for shareholders would soon clash with WhiteWave’s values. Our own research, including conversations with organic farmers, adds to this story.
Oren Holle is an organic farmer in Kansas who is also the president of the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM), an organic farmers’ marketing cooperative. After Dean Foods bought WhiteWave and sought to increase production of its organic soymilk, Holle, along with representatives of the Kansas Organic Producers Association, met with WhiteWave representatives to explore a possible partnership between WhiteWave and organic farmers. He recalls, “We proposed to work diligently within the Kansas Organic Producers cooperative and partner with several other OFARM member cooperatives to supply superior quality beans with guarantees of being U.S. grown through the established organic audit trail process. While they ‘talked the talk’ about purchasing the beans from U.S. producers, when the pricing structure was proposed to make the venture modestly profitable for the U.S. growers, the bottom line answer was that if we weren’t willing to provide the beans at a price equal to or less than the cost of available beans from China our proposal couldn’t be considered further. End of negotiation.”
Merle Kramer, a marketer for the Midwestern Organic Farmers Cooperative, observes, “Companies like White Wave had the opportunity to push organic and sustainable agriculture to incredible heights of production by working with North American farmers and traders to get more land in organic production, but what they did was pit cheap foreign soybeans against the U.S. organic farmer, taking away any attraction for conventional farmers to make the move into sustainable agriculture.”
Today, WhiteWave is moving away from using organic soybeans altogether, claiming that there is an organic soybean shortage in the United States. It is clear, however, that WhiteWave is not an innocent victim of this shortage. Years ago, the company had the opportunity to work with American farmers to convert farm acres to organic soybean production, but they chose instead to source from China.