Whole Foods, United Natural Foods Muscle Suppliers to Boycott Consumer Group

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Corporate Crime Reporter

Whole Foods, United Natural Foods Muscle Suppliers to Boycott Consumer Group

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The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) carries a big public interest stick.

It
can mobilize the 850,000 people in its network to pressure corporations and
governments.

The
goal – clean, safe, organic foods and products for America.

One
way that OCA raises money – it charges for ads on the group’s popular
web site – organicconsumers.org.

Two
companies had purchased logo space on the OCA web site – Organic Valley
and Nature’s Path.

Until
last year.

That’s
when the groups dropped their sponsorship.

Under
pressure from Whole Foods Market and United Natural Foods – the two companies
that dominate the organics market in the United States.

That’s
according to OCA’s national director Ronnie Cummins.

“National
sponsors like Organic Valley and Nature’s Path have been threatened by
Whole Foods and United Natural Foods that if they continue to support the Organic
Consumers Association they will suffer repercussions in the marketplace,”
Cummins told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week.

“We
had to take down those logos,” Cummins said. “We understand. We
don’t want a company to go bankrupt simply because they support the right
thing.”

Cummins said high ranking executives at the Organic Valley and Nature’s
Path told him about the threats – but asked that he not disclose their
names.

“Whole
Foods is very careful,” Cummins said. “Whole Foods has threatened
to sue us a number of times. But they are very careful when they do this sort
of arm twisting and intimidation to not leave any evidence of it. This was all
verbally committed over the phone or in person.”

The
executives from Nature’s Path and Organic Valley “apologized to
us and made me promise not to use their names,” Cummins said.

“We
are trying to protect these companies and these individuals from the fallout
from Whole Foods and United Natural Foods,” Cummins said.

Cummins
estimates that OCA lost a total of $40,000 in projected ad revenue as a result
of the move.

But
he understands that Organic Valley and Nature’s Path can’t afford
to offend Whole Foods and United Natural Foods – the main distributor
of organic foods in the United States.

“Whole
Foods sells $10 billion out of the $75 billion sold a year for the industry,”
Cummins said. “So for most companies it’s at least 15 percent, but
often up to 25 percent of their total sales. And it’s not just Whole Foods.
United Natural Foods was in on it to.”

If
they were cut off by those two, they would be driven out of business?

“You
would go bankrupt immediately,” Cummins said. “We call Whole Foods
and United Natural Foods the organic mafia. And it really is like that. There
is tremendous fear in the industry to say anything critical of Whole Foods and
United Natural Foods.”

When
did Whole Foods and United Natural Foods begin pressuring OCA?

“It
has happened over the past twelve months as we stepped up this campaign to expose
the myth of natural foods,” Cummins said. “And at first, Whole Foods
and United Natural Foods thought they could ignore the campaign. But then they
noticed we had an alliance with the United Farmworkers and with the Teamsters.”

Cummins wants Whole Foods and United Natural Foods to sign a Food Sustainability
Pledge.

“That
requires them to stop marketing conventional chemical foods as natural,”
Cummins said. “And to sell only foods in their store that are certified
organic or are in transition to organics. And it requires them to recognize
fair trade principles – not just overseas, but in the domestic supply
line.”

Whole
Foods spokesperson Libby Letton said that Whole Foods did not pressure the two
companies to pull the ads.

“For
the OCA to continue to mislead consumers about Whole Foods Market and UNFI is
alarming and disheartening,” Letton said. “When the OCA launched
an untrue campaign against us last year, we did contact our stakeholders, including
our suppliers, Team Members, and shoppers, because we wanted to clear up the
misinformation that was being spread by the OCA’s campaign. We find it
troubling that while the OCA accuses us of pressuring our suppliers against
them, they openly call on Whole Foods Market to ‘put the pressure on’
suppliers to transition to organic.”

“Meanwhile,
the truth is that Whole Foods Market continues to champion organics more than
ever. We take enormous pride in working with hard-working and ethical organic
farmers and food producers to offer our shoppers the very best organic products
on the planet,” Letton said.

United
Natural Foods could not be reached for comment.

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