Should we continue to purchase these products with the hope that we will eventually make a difference in what these corporations manufacture and invest in? Should we support the one ethical component of these corporations, with the goal of helping them acknowledge new buying trends and change their focus, thereby contributing to less animal suffering and environmental devastation in the future? Or should we boycott them and support instead the smaller businesses that are trying to maintain their ethics and not sell out?
Finally, the question of product integrity comes into play. Will the quality of the vegan products be altered once a big corporation buys out a smaller brand? Will the corporations begin to substitute less-than-acceptable ingredients, such as nonorganic or genetically modified ingredients? What’s a conscientious vegan to do?
At a time when huge corporations are gobbling up small manufacturers and small manufacturers are struggling to to stay in the black, it’s hard to decide the best place to put our dollars. Often small companies sell their businesses to large manufacturers because these behemoths have the resources and connections to buy costly shelf space in natural food chain stores and can aggressively promote products, two things that most small producers cannot afford to do. This allows those items with a relatively limited consumer market to not only survive but flourish. It’s not always an issue of small businesses “selling out.” Instead, it’s quite often a matter of survival that ultimately becomes a win-win strategy to keep their products alive.
When we purchase vegan products from companies that manufacturer items we would rather not support, we are using our dollars to vote for the vegan products. Manufacturers track consumer purchases, and if the items we use are getting lots of votes, companies will not only continue to produce them but will expand these lines. If we don't purchase them, companies will believe there is no market for them, and they will be dropped.
Another benefit to small-business buyouts is that the large manufacturers have access to numerous mainstream buying channels. Therefore the products we appreciate and value may be put on the shelves of major grocery stores where they will be accessible not only to us but to the average consumer and could possibly have a broad influence on the public’s buying habits and tastes.
Large corporations know the advantages of having vegan lines and brands. It wouldn't be in their best interest to alter the products and damage the trust that consumers already have placed in them. Sometimes these large manufacturers continue to let the original company with the same management team produce the products, and there is no noticeable change to consumers except greater product accessibility and visibility.
Certainly small companies deserve our loyal support as well. Vegan entrepreneurs often are product innovators and are frequently motivated to start a company that is fair to workers, produces wholesome animal-free products, and employs environmentally sound production methods. Startup companies usually are struggling to keep afloat, so when we purchase their products, we are helping to sustain them.
Fortunately, we don’t have to choose one manufacturer or retail outlet over another. We can buy products from a variety of companies and stores, both large and small, and make our voices heard across the board. By choosing wisely, consciously, and carefully, we can "spread the love" and vote with our dollars every time we go shopping.
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