Hy-Vee’s clean label initiative draws ire of Iowa corn farmers

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Hy-Vee’s clean label initiative draws ire of Iowa corn farmers

By Store Brands - 08/11/2017

West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee just launched its Clean Honest Ingredient initiative, which will eliminate more than 200 artificial ingredients or synthetic chemicals from 1,000 store brand products by July 2018. The fact that high-fructose corn syrup is included among the artificial ingredients has infuriated Iowa corn farmers, according to an article in the Des Moines Register.

Officials from the Iowa Corn Growers Association and the Iowa Corn Promotion Board wrote a strongly worded letter to Hy-Vee emphasizing that the “Clean Honest” label is misleading.

“The most disappointing and defamatory piece of this … is the suggestion that [high-fructose corn syrup] is not 'honest.' This is an incredible offense to every U.S. corn farmer who works hard to provide safe, nutritious food for the world,” stated the letter addressed to Hy-Vee Executive Vice President Jeremy Gosch.

“To clarify, we have not eliminated high-fructose corn syrup from any Hy-Vee brand products,” the company responded in a press release. “The Clean Honest Ingredients label was placed on products that never contained high-fructose corn syrup to begin with.”

In the press release, Hy-Vee stressed that of the more than 30,000 food items in its stores, “many of which do contain high-fructose corn syrup,” only 1,000 products will carry the Clean Honest Ingredients label.

 “Many food manufacturers and food retailers like Target, Walmart, Kroger and Whole Foods, across all parts of the United States, have already moved to what the industry refers to as ‘clean’ labeling,” Hy-Vee continued. “More and more customers are demanding simple, easier-to-read labels, fewer ingredients and greater transparency when it comes to product ingredient labeling. As a retailer with millions of customers with diverse needs, we feel it is our responsibility to provide varying choices so that they can make their own personal decisions when it comes to food purchase and consumption.”

Hy-Vee concluded the news release with a strong message: “What is most disappointing to us is how the Iowa Corn Growers Association chose to voice their concern. Had they elected to pick up the phone and call us directly versus attacking our business character through the media, we could have immediately clarified that our initiative in no way attacks their product. Today’s public smear campaign is not the way we do business. Our actions over the last 87 years have shown that we are a company that has proudly supported the corn growers of this state — and we continue to do so.”