2002 - Dean’s dairy rode soymilk’s WhiteWave
WhiteWave gained access to Dean’s worldwide manufacturing, processing and distribution network. One beverage analyst predicted WhiteWave would see sales of its popular Silk refrigerated soymilk grow at an annual rate of 30 percent to 50 percent.
While high growth may be a natural goal for any company, WhiteWave was concerned about the message it was sending its longtime customer base. It included a Q&A-style column on its website, with the leading question: “Isn’t this partnership a sellout?”
The company was careful to explain in its answers that it retained its autonomy, that it would still use organic ingredients in its products, and vegans and vegetarians needed not worry the company was abandoning their dietary requirements.
Steve Demos, WhiteWave’s founder and president, justified the union by explaining that if WhiteWave could use Dean’s vast resources to grow sales of its soy-based milk, creamer, tempeh and tofu, it could spread the gospel of soy to a far wider customer base.
Good cheer was not always the case between the companies. WhiteWave sued Dean to stop it from buying out the rest of the company after Dean announced it would merge with Suiza Foods Corp., another large dairy company. WhiteWave was fearful the new combined owner would destroy the Boulder company’s unique corporate culture — not to mention that Suiza owned Sun Soy, a competing brand of soymilk.
After WhiteWave lost its suit against Dean, Demos asked his parent company’s new chairman and chief executive, Gregg Engles, to meet him at his Boulder office and talk it out. Engles agreed to leave the company and its employees alone after Dean bought it.
The year ended with Demos predicting $189 million in sales for WhiteWave in 2003, adding, “Not bad for a bunch of hippies.”