While the food industry at-large has been swift to begin converting to non-GMO and organic foods in line with consumer demands, the meat industry has lagged behind, with few organic options in most grocery stores.
The void for organic and natural meats in a GMO and antiobiotic-tainted United States has been met largely by Applegate, based in Bridgewater, New Jersey, which is the top producer of organic and natural prepared meats here.
But now, some organic food advocates are concerned about a completed purchase of Applegate by one of the most notorious pro-GMO meat companies in the world: Hormel, which has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in key states.
Will Applegate’s standards stay the same or will big business take over and start making a few unwanted changes?
Show Me the Money: Hormel Takes Over Applegate
The deal, which has been reported on since early February and was just finalized for a whopping $775 million, will allow Austin, MN-based Hormel to take over what is fast becoming a major rival for the company, which produces Spam, Skippy peanut butter and several meat-based products including canned food.
Many of Hormel’s top foods are loaded with artificial and genetically modified ingredients as well as MSG derivatives (for example check out what’s in their chili), in stark contrast to Applegate’s simpler products.
Applegate has been growing by double digits in terms of percentage points ($340 million sales are expected this year) as consumers have begun seeking more organic and natural food options.
The question now is whether they will remain true to their own unique standards or if they will be compromised by another card-carrying member of the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association, an ardent advocate of Monsanto’s GMOs and big spender in the war against GMO labeling.
Applegate and Hormel: A True “Odd Couple”
Hormel itself has already been corrupted in the eyes of many, including Tom Hormel, grandson of founder George Hormel.
The remaining Hormel family members are no longer affiliated with the company after they were pushed out the door, and Tom recently gave $500,000 of his own money to support GMO labeling in Oregon, against the company’s wishes. It’s fair to say that Tom Hormel family has become increasingly concerned with the direction of the company and its standards of quality.
Applegate has been moving in the other direction, however. They recently began removing GMOs in animal feed used in its ‘Naturals’ line and had been providing updates on its website.
But doing so is a large undertaking in America where the vast majority of all domestic animal feed is genetically modified corn and soy. It’s fair to wonder whether Hormel will continue this policy due to cost concerns.
Recent history has shown that organic and natural companies almost always make pledges to stay true to their original missions upon being purchased.
But it’s more than fair to wonder whether the same standards will apply once Hormel is able to exert its influence on the smaller company (for instance, check out how the former CEO of Silk Foods was double crossed by a company linked to Dean Foods and how its customers were taken advantage of).
At the end of the day, consumers will have to make their own decisions and do their own homework if they want to assure they’re getting the healthiest and most pure food products possible.
Whether or not that includes Applegate in the post-Hormel world remains to be seen.