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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 Food 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 company in 2012 in an effort to add healthy products to its product line. After the business press widely reported about 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,” said Dunn.
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,” said Dunn.
The vision: plants powering people is a trend the founders 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 concern over animal welfare, environmental sustainability, wellbeing or health concerns. “Consumers are making more mindful choices at the shelf and their needs are changing quickly. We are seeing an increased demand for products that help promote wellness, that taste great and are available at a good value,” said Dunn.
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 employees’ 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 its employees and customers. Dunn explained to 3p that 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 an essential pay supplemental bonus for essential employees.
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. By early August, the company contributed more than $4 million worth of donations to stakeholders including its 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.
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