FoodFacts.com was quite surprised to hear the news that Annie’s Homegrown has been purchased and incorporated into the General Mills’ family of products. We were immediately reminded of Kashi and the Kellogg Company. While Kashi has been able to maintain some of its previous commitment to food quality, we do have to think about a long list of difficulties that have included lawsuits regarding unsubstantiated “natural” claims for many of its products. That wouldn’t have happened prior to its mainstream ownership. So what will happen to Annie’s Homegrown and can we anticipate the same sort of problems occurring with this much-loved brand?
Annie’s Homegrown specializes in good-for-your versions of guilty foods like Hamburger Helper. Now it has been bought by the company that actually makes Hamburger Helper. In mid-September, Annie’s became the sister of Betty Crocker and dozens of other non-natural brands that make up the food conglomerate General Mills.
Does this mean that Annie’s Cheeseburger Skillet meal, made from organic pasta and non-GMO ingredients, will soon become an unhealthy stew of trans fats, MSG, and the artificial flavors found in Hamburger Helper’s Cheeseburger Macaroni? Will future versions of Annie’s cute little cheddar bunny crackers contain Franken-ingredients like the de-germed yellow corn meal found in GM’s Chex Mix?
Probably not. GM may be the home of Lucky Charms and Totino’s Pizza Rolls, but it also owns the organic and natural brands Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, and Larabar. Food experts say there’s no reason GM would pay millions of dollars for these trusted brands just to destroy them. Of course, GM could make subtle ingredient changes that would slowly de-healthify its natural and organic brands to save money.
But retailers believe that, so far, this hasn’t been the case. David Clark, COO of online grocer Door to Door Organics, says despite being owned by General Mills for 15 years, Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen products still meet Door to Door’s standards, which include having no trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, growth hormones, or artificial flavors or colors. He hopes the same will hold true for Annie’s.
We hope they’re right. Even we have to admit that the General Mills’ brand family DOES in fact include natural and organic brands. The problem with that, though, is that there are many consumers who think twice before picking up a Cascadian Farm organic product BECAUSE of its General Mills’ ownership. We know that there are countless families who depend on Annie’s products for their children. They choose Cheddar Bunnies instead of Goldfish, Cheeseburger Skillet Meal instead of Hamburger Helper, Mac and Cheese with real ingredients. Annie’s Homegrown plays an important role in the lives of nutritionally aware families. It’s a role we hope continues regardless of their ownership.