Dean Foods and their Silk-y Smooth Scam

pesticideThis is nice from an outfit that has for quite some time benefited from being seen as a purveyor of high quality (and high priced) organic alternatives to dairy. Turns out that Dean Foods, producers of Silk Soy Milk, decided to very quietly switch from using organic soy beans to traditionally produced beans. Barely any change in packaging, just a discrete switch from “organic” to “natural” on the label. Same bar code, though, which would seem to imply they insist it’s really the same product. Oh, and same price, too.

It’s particularly galling when you see how Dean Foods is pushing the Silk brand as wholesome and responsible:

We know how much you care about the foods you bring to your table because that’s how much we care about the soymilk we bring to you.

So much so, that we decided to bring a little pesticide into your life without telling you much about it. How do your kids like that new carcinogenic flavor? Oh, and apparently:

Years ago, Silk set out to help make the world a healthy place. Not just for the people who drink our soymilk, but for everyone. Today, that commitment is going strong […]

Yes, Silk is partnering with Conservation International in a “responsible sourcing program” for soy beans, which, in light of their little bait-and-switch exercise is really a euphemism for: “we decided we couldn’t be bothered with that whole tedious organic thing, so we’ve tried to put lipstick on this pesticide pig with the help of a professional greenwashing outfit. See you at the checkout counter.”

It’s not at all clear to me what the benefit of this “sourcing program” is supposed to be, if the net upshoot is that Silk think they can simply switch out their organics with traditionally produced soy beans. That strategy flies squarely in the face of their own stated guiding principles (see page 4):

Silk’s Sourcing and Production Program is based on seven core beliefs:

  • We believe our consumers have a right to know where their food is sourced.
  • We believe in using only the highest-quality ingredients in our products.
  • We believe consumers should know about the steps taken to ensure our products are safe.
  • We believe products should be made and produced in a way that helps our suppliers and farmers maintain economic viability.
  • We believe in making products in an environmentally responsible manner.
  • We believe in providing meaningful support to our people and our communities.

Conservation International does not impress me one bit. Their list of corporate partners reads like a who’s who of polluters and negligent resource abusers, and their own board features movers and shakers from multinationals and their pawns. I sincerely hope this whole thing comes back to bite Dean Foods something awful, and perhaps act as a warning to any other producers of organic foods out there tempted to pad the bottom line by pulling a bait-and-switch on their loyal customers.It’s really too bad they had to pull this — Dean Foods seems to try hard on other fronts: no GMOs, no growth hormones, decent environmental stewardship, etc. etc. But, sorry, even with all of that, there are still some basic ethical rules that apply — perhaps even more so, when you raise the bar and expect to charge a premium because you’re “the good guys.”

Watch what you eat — and, it would seem, watch what you buy when you think you’ve watched what you’re eating.

(h/t: Americablog, photo from here)