Organic Industry Watchdog Wins Major Antitrust Victory
CORNUCOPIA, Wis., March 31, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The French dairy giant, Groupe Danone (Dannon in the U.S.) has announced an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to liquidate its holdings in the largest manufacturer of organic yogurt, Stonyfield, so that its proposed acquisition of WhiteWave Foods can move forward. The original merger deal would have combined the world’s largest organic yogurt brand, Stonyfield, with Wallaby, a rapidly growing organic yogurt label, and the nation’s largest brand of organic milk, Horizon.
In August 2016 The Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog, formally challenged the acquisition based on forecasting the serious erosion of competition it would have created in the consumer marketplace and the negative economic impact it would have on U.S. organic dairy farmers.
“In our discussions with the DOJ, and dozens of reporters in the financial press who contacted us, the operative question had always been, short of regulators killing the deal, what moves could Danone take to placate our concerns?” said Mark A. Kastel, Cornucopia’s Codirector.
“We openly questioned whether Danone was interested in WhiteWave because of its role in organic dairy, and the synergy of combining that with their existing holdings in Stonyfield, or if they were more interested in WhiteWave’s dominance in the growing, and more profitable, ‘plant-based’ beverage category. This move seems to have addressed that uncertainty,” Kastel added.
“As part of the agreement in principle with the DOJ, we made the strategic decision to divest Stonyfield as it allows us to take a major step towards completing the WhiteWave transition expeditiously,” said Emmanuel Faber, Danone’s CEO, in a company news release.
WhiteWave brands that Danone is acquiring are the top sellers in their categories. Horizon organic milk controls nearly 25% of the organic milk market, while their Silk brand is a leader in plant-based beverages.
Dairy has long been one of the most commercially successful organic product categories. In many households organic milk is among the first foods introduced to children. Following fruits and vegetables, organic dairy products are the second largest product segment in the organic industry.
Cornucopia had also launched a petition drive on their website and organized a letter campaign among U.S. organic dairy farmers that sent thousands of contacts to regulators expressing concerns about the merger.
Mark Kastel, firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-625-2000
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SOURCE The Cornucopia Institute