If you were on social media yesterday, you probably saw many responses to the Enjoy Life Foods acquisition by Mondelez International. These are real quotes from social media.
“…this is devastating… even worse than Annie’s Homegrown”
“Nothing is safe anymore!”
“Even if they don’t change I’m not sure I can support a company that doesn’t respect their food allergic customers with full ingredient and manufacturing disclosure”
“Enjoy Life is saying it’s good because they can now distribute more broadly and offer new products, but I’m skeptical after seeing So Delicious quality diminish. I am not holding out a lot of hope for continued high quality of Enjoy Life. Certainly Kraft (Mondelez) will not be encouraging the continued us of non-GMO and will never support labeling laws. It’s some very sad news for me and my family.”
“Another one bites the dust!!”
“I hope it was worth whatever deal you made with the devil”
“NOOO!!!! Not another one, Are all the clean companies going to follow the money, and sell out to the big corporate bullies?”
While change can be really scary, based on these comments it’s as if Enjoy Life Foods had given up making safe allergen-friendly food and decided to make nothing but loaves of GMO gluten bread full of nuts and dairy. I mean, c’mon “deal with the devil?” Really? After we all take a deep breath together, let’s talk about what the acquisition really means.
Will the product change? Are my kids with food allergies still going to be safe?
Their brand promise will remain the same. Per Enjoy Life Foods, “Enjoy Life’s dedicated production, as you know it today will remain the same, and we will continue to produce in certified gluten free, and dedicated nut-free locations. We are not changing our products’ gluten free, allergy-friendly non-GMO ingredients, the ones in which you’ve placed your trust. We are not changing what has made our company what it is today. We will remain certified Gluten-Free, Free From the Top 8 Allergens (12 in Canada, 14 in EU), with no artificial ingredients, and all of our products will remain verified non-GMO.” So no, they’re not changing. Their production facilities will remain the same. However, this deal will probably help Enjoy Life Foods expand their product line, as influx in capital can help provide new product development capabilities and being a part of a larger company can increase product and production intelligence capabilities they don’t have right now too!
Will the employees change? What about Joel?
Per Enjoy Life Foods, “Please rest assured that our team is not changing, and we are continuing to operate the company as a separate entity within Mondelez International.” Joel is there. Scott is there. The awesome brand team is still there.
Will they still be at gluten-free or food-allergy shows?
I sure hope so, because everyone needs to get their hands on a bag of Plentils and some dark chocolate morsels. You can find them at some upcoming Gluten Free Food Allergy Fests with Gluten Free & More Magazine. I’ll be visiting their booth in Austin giving away free hugs. According to the team, they will continue having a presence at food-allergy-friendly events.
Will they start using GMOs in the products?
As above, per Enjoy Life Foods, “all of our products will remain verified non-GMO.” They have also assured me that all future products released by Enjoy Life will be non-GMO verified. As a note about organics, they do use organic ingredients when possible, but not all of their products are certified organic.
Why would they sell to a big corporation?
Let’s first talk about why small businesses sell to larger businesses. Money. I know it is hard to say it, but everywhere we get food from is a company or a small business. Hell, Celiac and the Beast is an LLC. I have margins, bottom lines, and I have cash flows. Why don’t you see me at every event anymore? Money. Why haven’t I come out with new lines of hoodies? Money. Why can’t I do more book signings across the country? Money. Money is how business works. Without money, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy all the things we do in life. How do you think a product gets capital to make new products, rebrand, advertise, and then make it into your hometown grocery store? A great product, a little luck, and money. Money is not the root of all evil – it’s how a business survives. We should look at this acquisition as a way for Enjoy Life Foods to improve their product, create new products, achieve better distribution, and become a household brand to be enjoyed by every food-allergic and/or gluten-free person in the marketplace.
Business acquisitions do not necessarily go hand in hand with “selling out.” I’m saddened reading so many comments about this. In my opinion, Enjoy Life Foods has gone about this the right way. They addressed it with a press release, and are assuring that they will maintain their integrity to their products – like they always have. Organic, non-GMO, allergen-friendly, gluten-free, vegan are all really huge right now in the food world. You should see the crazy amount of brands at Natural Products Expo West (which I’ll be at again soon), because this portion of consumers is growing so rapidly. Everyone wants to get a piece of this pie for themselves.
If you were a huge company, of course you would want to acquire a food-allergy friendly brand like Enjoy Life Foods to add to your roster! As a business, you want to be as well-rounded as you can in your portfolio – the ability to serve any consumer with one of your brands.
Just because they are acquired by a huge global brand doesn’t mean they have to change and somehow become like the other brands in their portfolio – that’s probably not why they were acquired. According to the PR Newswire release, Mark Clouse, the Chief Growth Officer at Mondelez stated, “As we focus on continuing to drive growth in snacking, the acquisition of Enjoy Life Foods is a great strategic fit for us…The Enjoy Life brand expands our portfolio into faster growing, on-trend, ‘better-for-you’ areas and provides an excellent platform to make these delicious offerings available to consumers with ‘free-from’ needs or simply looking for healthy-lifestyle options, both in the United States and beyond.” When I spoke to Enjoy Life Foods, they told me that Joel met with the CEO of Mondelez and they wanted ELF to continue to keep growing and providing great products to their specialty diets consumer. I truly believe that Enjoy Life Foods – under the same leadership of Scott and Joel, will not change, and can only grow.
Businesses have to grow. They have to add capital to continue producing new products and continue to earn enough money to keep a huge brand safe and great for us. This is a chance to get excited about what’s to come and see Enjoy Life Foods’ next chapter. I hope you come along for the ride.
**Disclosure: Enjoy Life Foods is a regular advertiser and sponsor for Celiac and the Beast. However, this post was written without compensation. I interviewed the team for information about the acquisition for this piece. If you don’t believe that I purchase Enjoy Life Foods products on my own with my own hard-earned-dollars, I can copy you some Whole Foods and Fresh & Easy receipts.**