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Rasha Rehman headshot

For This Company, Plant-Based Foods Come From a 100-Year Vision

By Rasha Rehman

Many companies have had to pivot quickly and focus the COVID-19 related challenges confronting them. Bolthouse Farms says it’s doing exactly this and more. The San Joaquin Valley-based company responded to increased consumer demand for plant-based food by doing what it has done best for the past century: pursuing its vision of “plants powering people.” That means a renewed commitment to plant-based food products.

This vision is a verified consumer trend. According to the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA), the rate of growth in U.S. sales of plant-based food products has actually exceeded the growth rate of total food sales since the COVID-19 pandemic ensued in March 2020. Shortly after, Bolthouse launched new plant-based food products to hit store shelves this fall.

Founded in 1915, Bolthouse Farms has become an American powerhouse of juices, smoothies, plant-based protein beverages and refrigerated salad dressings. Nevertheless, over the years it has not been an easy ride for the company.

A century-old vision of plant-based foods remains intact

Bolthouse Farms has gone through multiple changes over the past decade. Campbell Soup Company acquired the brand in 2012 in an effort to add healthy offerings to its product line. After the business press widely reported performance issues including the recall of 3.8 million bottles of protein shakes, Campbell’s eventually sold Bolthouse Farms to the private equity firm Butterfly Equity in 2019.

Butterfly Equity operating partner Jeffrey Dunn assumed the role of chief executive officer at Bolthouse Farms; that was a natural decision as he had previously worked as the president and CEO of the company. “I returned to Bolthouse Farms because I believe there is a huge opportunity to help people change the way they are eating, both for themselves and for the planet,” Dunn said.

In an interview with TriplePundit, Dunn explained how the company has refocused on its original roots of carrot farming and sustainable food production since its separation from Campbell’s. "We have established a long-term vision for the new Bolthouse Farms — 'plants powering people' — which starts with a focus on healthier and more accessible plant-based eating but goes beyond that with an holistic commitment to powering our consumers, our employees, our communities, our partners and the planet," Dunn told us.

The vision: Plants powering people is a trend forecast nearly 100 years ago when the Bolthouse family started the company. Today, consumers have a plethora of plant-based food options and easy access to information about all these choices. All of this helps to encourage the pursuit of a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, whether it’s out of concern for animal welfare, environmental sustainability, wellbeing or personal health. “Consumers are making more mindful choices at the shelf — and their needs are changing quickly," Dunn explained. "We are seeing an increased demand for products that help promote wellness, that taste great and are available at a good value." 

Bolthouse moved fast in contributing to the plant-based food economy. The company has launched 33 new products, including keto-friendly beverages, salad dressings as well as smoothies and juices.

COVID-19 reinforces the need for food security and employee wellbeing

Bolthouse Farms is no exception to COVID-19 and the challenges the pandemic has forced businesses to confront this year. The company said it approached this pandemic by focusing on food security and the wellbeing of employees and customers. While furthering its food product innovations, Bolthouse Farms implemented health and safety procedures, mandated a work-from-home policy for non-essential employees, and kickstarted a supplemental bonus in pay for essential workers, Dunn explained. 

To ensure food security, the company purchased food and essentials for its employees and partnered with local nonprofits and international organizations to support the various communities where it does business. By early August, the company contributed more than $4 million worth of donations to stakeholders including employees, customers and the wider community. Examples of such actions include the donation of truckloads of fresh carrots, 200,000 cases of its plant-based food products and cash for the nonprofit Feeding America.

It will be compelling to watch how companies like Bolthouse Farms pursue their vision in alignment with their employees’ health, ongoing concerns over a “second wave” of COVID-19, and rapidly changing consumer trends. Either way, customers are demanding plant-based products and with every innovation, Bolthouse Farms shows how we’re another step closer to a more humane and sustainable food supply chain.

Image credit: Rodrigo dos Reis/Unsplash

Rasha Rehman headshot

Rasha is a freelance journalist with experience in external communications and publicity. She is a Ryerson School of Journalism graduate and has worked on various media and communication campaigns in film, home development and the nonprofit sector. Rasha is passionate about storytelling for impact, whether she focuses on social enterprise, transforming our food system or making the business world more inclusive.

Read more stories by Rasha Rehman