It’s not easy for a company to overcome bad publicity. Two years ago, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) called for a boycott of Silk products because some of the soybeans in its products came from countries known for inhumane labor practices, such as Brazil and China. By August 2009, Silk’s website claimed all soy beans used in its products came from North America. A year later, Silk announced it enrolled in the Non-GMO Project’s Product Verification Program. On June 23, 2011, Silk announced that all products in its beverage portfolio have been officially verified by the Non-GMO Project, a non-profit multi-stakeholder collaboration.
Craig Shiesley, general manager for Silk, made the announcement at the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) Forum in Boulder, Colorado. Non-GMO Project’s seal will appear on all products, which should give consumers more confidence in the company.
Silk’s website allows consumers to trace the origins of the ingredients in its products. As the website states, “It’s easier to make healthy choices when you know where your food comes from. Silk soybeans are grown right here in the U.S. on farms that believe in keeping natural foods natural — just like we do.” Clearly, allowing consumers to trace the ingredients’ origins is designed to instill confidence, or in the case of consumers who purchased Silk products for years, re-instill confidence.
The Silk brand, which produces soy, coconut and almond milks, is owned by Dean Foods, which owns over 50 milk labels The company used to be owned by White Wave which used 100 organic soybeans in its products. Dean Foods gradually switched to using mostly conventional soybeans. However, the price of Silk products stayed the same despite the switch to cheaper conventional soybeans, a 2009 report by the Cornucopia Institute found.
Shiesley said that with Non-GMO Project verification, “consumers can feel confident purchasing Silk beverages knowing the products have gone through rigorous third-party verification of GMO avoidance practices.” However, it is not exactly helpful for Shiesley to claim that Silk “has been using non-GMO soybeans since the brand’s inception 15 years ago,” when the Cornucopia’s report found that some of its soybeans came from countries like China where GMO soybeans are common.
“With more than 20 million consumers nationwide and an exceptionally high volume of soybeans, all from North America, Silk is a tremendous ally,” said Megan Westgate, executive director of the Non-GMO Project. “The verification of their beverage portfolio is an enormous boost to our non-profit mission of providing the public with an informed choice and preserving a non-GMO ingredient supply for the future.”