Why I Support Big Meat Purchasing Plant Based Food Companies
What happens when the company I’m trying not to support buys or invests in the company I am supporting?
As a teenager I made a major decision to stop eating meat. Then, a few years ago, I made what felt like an even bigger decision. I decided that I did not want to contribute to the persistent violence against animals and the plundering of our environment. Plus, I wasn’t going to fall for the where do you get your protein or B12 myth. I stopped eating fish, seafood, dairy, and eggs and became 100% plant-based.
Today, I don’t want to contribute to an industry that brings animals into the world with one goal, to be consumed. That includes leather, wool, and fur. Additionally, I go out of my way to support and promote plant-based food companies in order to turn these companies into tough competition for the big food companies. I want to be any vegan company’s biggest fan.
But what happens when the company I’m trying not to support buys or invests in the company I am supporting? Where does that leave me? Are my favourite brands selling out? Am I now supporting the devil?
In the last few years, a number of plant-based ethically run companies have sold to what any vegan would call the enemy.
Lite Life also to Maple Leaf Foods
Daiya sold to Atsuka for nearly $400M
Sweet Earth was bought by Nestle
Beyond Meat has Tyson (the largest meat producer) as an investor
Gardein was bought by Pinnacle
In 2002, Silk's parent company WhiteWave was purchased by the largest dairy company in the United States, Dean Foods. Since then it became a separate entity again and was then purchased by Danone, one of the world's largest dairy producers in the world, in 2016. Since then, WhiteWave, now a subsidiary of Danone, has acquired vegan companies Vega and So Delicious.
So is it bad if a large meat company owns a fast growing vegan brand?
Maybe more importantly, what can we do about it if it does happen?
We can’t control the owners and investors of the companies we’ve chosen to support with our wallets. Companies like Field Roast are in business to generate profits and that’s OK.
I believe large meat companies know that their business model is not sustainable. Unless they’ve got their heads up their asses, they’ve done the math and can see that animal agriculture takes up 1/3 of the world’s available land, about 10x what is required to create plant protein.
I thought long and hard about how I feel about a company whose business model is entirely based on animal and environmental harm buying a brand with the opposite mentality. It took me a while, but I realized the best way for more people to be exposed to vegan products is through investment and distribution. In this case, that is what Maple Leaf brings to the table.
Vegan and vegetarians, as a segment, are growing fast but guess what segment is growing faster? A group often referred to as flexitarians. These are people who are focused on consuming less animal flesh and fluids. Personally, I want this group to have access to more and more plant protein that satisfies their cravings. If we want people to choose a cruelty free product, then one way to do this is to get into the big meat brand’s distribution networks.
There aren’t any multi-billion dollar plant-based food companies with international distribution. So this means, a deal with the devil accelerates the goal of creating a multi-billion dollar plant-based brand. Additionally, the resources from a sale of a vegan brand enable a vegan entrepreneur to potentially start another vegan business.
The truth is people aren’t going to change unless we make it easier. Easier meaning a larger selection of plant-based proteins in more locations.
The large corporations have one goal, to make money. But in reality, they don’t care how they make the money. Their goal is not to kill animals, their goal is to make money.
It’s safe to say that a business model based on breeding animals, raising them, feeding them for years, keeping them healthy*, cleaning up after them, dealing with their waste and then slaughtering them, is a business model on its deathbed.
80% of antibiotics are consumed by animals being raised for consumption.
And to those who worry that the big meat brands will change the product, it’s not in their best interest to do that. They want the line of vegan products to succeed and they do not want to alter the relationship with existing consumers. The likely scenario when a large company buys a smaller, more creative (in this case, vegan) company, the smaller, more nimble brand will likely have more influence over the big company than vice versa. In my case I sold to acompany that was 10x my size. After one year there was changes across the organization that could be attributed to how we did things prior to the acquisition (how things were sold, how products were bundled, how executives planned, and maybe most importantly how we viewed the customer).
Oil and gas companies have been investing in alternative energies for decades. Tobacco has been diversifying in other industries for decades. I believe this is exactly the same thing, investing ahead of the death of their own businesses.
"What’s the most likely result of a company like Field Roast being acquired by a large meat company? An increase or decrease in plant based protein? "
Let’s lower the barriers for more people to try cruelty free products, even if they are owned by meat and dairy companies. Let’s get behind more access for plant-based proteins at lower prices. Feels like a win to me.