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9 'Ethical' Small Brands That Are Actually Owned By Major Companies


"Earth Friendly Natural Personal Care for The Greater Good."

Via Business Insider: for years now, Burt's Bees has been marketing itself as a local brand from Durham, N.C., and is proudly described as "Earth Friendly Natural Personal Care for The Greater Good."

However, it downplays the fact that it was sold for nearly a billion dollars a few years ago to mega-corporation Clorox.

Brands like Burt's Bees and Ben & Jerry's attract a growing market that has been described as "environmentally-conscious consumers." They rely on being marketed as "local and natural," but many consumers are unaware that these brands now belong to major corporations, reports Business Insider.

To be sure, many of these companies began as small, entrepreneurial startups, and though being bought out by a corporation may have been a hard decision, the owners all sought ways to preserve their image/ideals as a part of their buyout deals.

Mars bought Seeds of Change in 1997 Seeds of Change was founded as a seed company specializing in organics back in 1989. After candy-giant Mars bought the company, Seeds of Change was allowed to keep running mostly as it did before.

In 2010, Mars decided to close the Seeds of Change Research Farm and Gardens, which boasted thousands of varieties of plants.The shutdown drew criticism because the farm had been synonymous with the brand and was a part of its marketing.

General Mills bought Cascadian Farm in 1999

Cascadian Farm used to be famous for its cereals with "no added sugar." In 2010, this label disappeared from its boxes.A Cascadian Farm customer said her children noticed a funny new taste in their Purely O's. It turned out the cereal had tripled its sugar count.

Cascadian Farm customers felt duped and  complained the new cereal tasted "dreadful" and looked "disgusting."

Unilever bought Ben & Jerry's for $326 million in 2000

The ice-cream maker said Unilever was determined to nurture Ben & Jerry's commitment to community values, and its commitment to donate 7.5 percent of profits to social causes.

However, in 2002 the company was accused of abusing its "All Natural" label by the Center for Science and Public Interest and in 2005 Ben & Jerry's CEO Walt Freese admitted the company had grown soft on continuing its traditions of social consciousness.

Kellogg's bought Kashi for $32 million in 2000

Kellogg's bought the maker of natural cereal for an undisclosed amount.

After the acquisition, customers became afraid of Kashi using genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, known to be used in Kellogg's' cereals.


ConAgra bought Lightlife Foods in 2000

Lightlife produces vegetarian and vegan meat substitutes like Smart Deli slices and Smart Bacon, which made it a logical acquisition target for ConAgra, one of the world's largest packaged food companies.

But ConAgra has also fought against some natural food initiatives. In 2002, the company joined its competitors in stopping the state of Oregon's Measure 27, which would have required it to label products that have genetically-altered ingredients.

Coca-Cola bought Odwalla for $181 million in 2001

"I think everybody is now chasing nourishment." said Odwalla President Shawn Sugarma in 2004. "Obesity and its related health problems are a huge concern for anybody in the food business today."

Known for blends such as C Monster, Mo' Beta, Rooty Fruity and Viva Las Veggies, the juice and natural food bar makers stopped selling the fresh-squeezed orange juice that had made Odwalla famous since it wouldn't last the days and weeks the juices are in transit or on the shelf.

Colgate-Palmolive bought Tom's of Maine for $100 million in 2006

After the acquisition, Tom's of Maine loyalists complained about the new toothpaste's sweet flavor, the new plastic packaging, and the new smell of deodorant soap.

Basically, they complained about everything.


L'Oréal buys Body Shop for $1.1 billion in 2006

An index that tracked public perception of more than 1,000 consumer brands found that "satisfaction" with Body Shop had slumped by almost half since the deal by Body Shop founder, Dame Anita Roddick, to sell the company to L'Oréal for $1.1 billion.

Campaigners against animal testing and the Swiss multi-national Nestlé, which has a 26 per cent share in L'Oréal, also called for a boycott of Body Shop.

Clorox bought Burt's Bees for $913 million in 2007

After the deal went through, scores of customers called Burt’s Bees and accused the company of selling out.

John Replogle, the chief executive of Burt’s Bees, says he personally responded to customers who left their phone numbers.

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