History of White Wave (1977-2022): America's Most Creative and Successful Soyfoods Maker

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-82-3

Publication Date: 2022 Sept. 9

Number of References in Bibliography: 742

Earliest Reference: 1977

Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of White Wave (1977-2022): America's Most Creative and Successful Soyfoods Maker

Brief Chronology/Timeline of White Wave, Inc.

White Wave was probably the most creative and most successful soyfoods maker in the USA. Therefore, this book can be of use to other entrepreneurs making soyfoods throughout the world.

1949 April 24 – Steve Demos is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of Lorraine Henneberry and Anthony Demos, an entrepreneur in the metals industry primarily making fluxes for the weld rod industry and supplying platinum to the automobile industry. Steve had two brothers and two sisters in his family; he was second born behind an older brother.

He attended Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, majoring in political science and philosophy and graduating in the fall of 1970. He was introduced to tofu in the summer of 1970, when he was traveling in a van in northern California with a friend, who bought some at an Oriental food store. Demos found it to be a good source of protein, and liked the flavor.

In 1971 he became a vegetarian, after witnessing the meat bazaar in Afghanistan.

1977 Sept.Steve Demos starts White Wave at 1738 Pearl St., in Boulder, Colorado. His first product is organic tofu (bulk or packaged) – about 300 pounds a week. White Wave is one of the first companies to use organic soybeans in the USA.

1978 Feb. – White Wave starts making soymilk in three flavors – plain, honey-sweetened, and carob maple.

1978 March – White Wave opens The Cow of China (later renamed Good Belly Deli), a soy deli forming the front of the company’s small tofu, as a showcase for its products and to test the market. Here customers can buy fresh White Wave food products direct from the maker. A creative poster proclaims: “White Wave Through The Cow of China, Offers Food from the Kingdom of plants. We Make It All Here in Boulder! 100% Dairyless!”

1978 July 28 – The Soycrafters Association is founded at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Approximately 70 people attended – including Steve Demos.

1978 Sept. – After just a year at Pearl Street, the tofu company had long since outgrown its minuscule 'back room' space. So manufacturing operations were moved to a 3,000 square feet converted warehouse at 3869 Walnut Street. It felt like they had moved into a castle, with ten times as much space. Now there was great pressure to expand the business to use up the extra space. The company began to make new products new products (such as tempeh, ice cream, and new deli foods) and look for new markets. The deli remained at Pearl Street, and was given a new name.

1979 Feb. – White Wave starts making tempeh at 3869 Walnut St., Boulder. Chip McIntosh is the first tempeh maker, followed by Chris O’Riley.

1979 Feb. – White Wave starts making soymilk ice cream named Polar Bean, in Banana Carob, Strawberry, Chocolate, Carob Mint, or Orange flavors.

1979 July – Introduces Missing Egg Salad, and Tofu Cheesecake.

1979 – New Packaging: White Wave couldn't get its tofu into supermarkets unless it was sold in water-packed film-sealed plastic tubs (trays); the Chinese carry-out food/fish cartons were not acceptable. So Demos bought a little hand-packing machine that allowed one person to pack one block of tofu at a time in water in a plastic tray, then seal the tray with a film lid. Steve remembers first using this machine at the Walnut St. plant. Initially, he would seal the tofu tray with clear, unprinted film, then run one of their oval labels (the one with a hint of green color in it, used previously on the Chinese cartons) through a gluing machine which was less expensive than buying pre-glued labels), and slap the label on the clear plastic film. This was White Wave's “first true commercial mass market package." The new marketable package led to many new accounts. After King Soopers (in Boulder) the company got into the City Markets chain, then about a year later into Safeway, followed by a host of other chains.

1979 Oct. 17 – Carol Kreck of the Denver Post writes an article about White Wave titled “Tofu is ‘remarkable.’” The company now makes 5,000 to 7,000 pounds/week of tofu. It is sold at health food stores and King Soopers at $0.85 for a 14-ounce package.

To get a new product into a supermarket, most companies “push” it in by paying a “slotting allowance” ($10,000 at the time). Steve convinced a buyer at King Soopers grocery store to test his tofu for 30 days. Every day Demos had his employees go into the store and buy tofu. At the end of this “test” period, the tofu was selling so well that King Soopers increased distribution to 82 stores.

1979 Dec. – Introduces Savory Baked Tofu. This is flavored tofu, ready to eat.

1983 – White Wave is incorporated as a closely-held corporation.

At King Soopers in Boulder, White Wave tofu is moved out of the produce case into the colder and more appropriate dairy case between yogurt and milk.

1986 Dec. 1 – White Wave acquires Soyfoods Unlimited, a tempeh maker in San Leandro, California, founded by John, Gary and Valerie Robertson. Manufacturing will be consolidated at White Wave's plant in Colorado.

1987 March 17 – An article by Susan Smith in the Daily Camera (Boulder) states that White Wave now has 25 employees and expects revenues of $1.6 million in 1987, growing to $5 million by 1990.

1987 Oct. – In a long interview with Wm. Shurtleff at Soyfoods Center in Lafayette, California, Steve gives a detailed history of White Wave.

1989 May 13 – White Wave has just purchased a meat packing house with 23,000 square feet of processing space, fully refrigerated and built for food production, on 2.2 acres on the eastern outskirts of Boulder, on 61st Street, 7 blocks from their present plant. They are paying only $600,000 for the plant (built in 1975) plus land; the land alone is valued at $500,000. They will take possession on May 15 and the deal is expected to close in June. They will retain their current 10,000 square foot plant for making ice cream and some new products. So they will be manufacturing in 2 places.

In August White Wave moved into this “new” plant.

1989 June – Launches Meatless Healthy Franks (Tofu Hot Dogs).

1990 Jan. 5 – Distribution of White Wave products is extended to California by Rock Island, which will distribute them to 120 Safeway stores, as well as to most natural foods stores.

1991 May – Launches White Wave Dairyless (Nonfermented soy yogurt) in Blueberry, Strawberry, Raspberry, Vanilla and Peach flavors. White Wave has never launched a product that has crossed over so quickly from the natural/health foods market to the mass market. Sales are now 3 times higher than first-year projections. They are selling thousands of cases a week. Virtually everyone who tastes it likes it very much, says they would like to buy it, and says they do not taste any soy flavor. By Feb. 1994 it is fermented.

1992 June – White Wave marketing director Paul Chasnoff comes up with the bumper sticker as the company's 'corporate political statement. It reads: "I Eat Tofu and I Vote!"

1993 Jan. – In a year of mission statements: “White Wave's mission is to creatively lead the full integration of low technology soyfoods into the average American diet.” News release sent by Susan Holden of Holden McClure.

1993 July – White Wave has developed a “shelf-set” titled “Vegetarian Cuisine” at the Whole Foods market in Berkeley, California. The set is fully integrated into the store's dairy case; it is not a stand-alone unit. It contains about 46 facings of White Wave products in an organized fashion.

1994 Feb. – Boulder Daily Camera food writer John Lehndorff coins the term Tofutown USA to describe Boulder. White Wave is now making 50,000 pounds/day of tofu = 13 million pounds a year.

1995 May – Steve says in an interview: “We are a vegetarian company and we always will be. We want to define vegetarianism. Our strategy is to make the word 'vegetarian' and White Wave synonymous. We want people think of White Wave when they think of vegetarianism.”

He also says that White Wave currently produces a line of 47 vegetarian products. Most of these are now sold in the company's Vegetarian Cuisine Centers located in over 200 natural food stores and supermarkets nationwide.

1995 Aug. –White Wave now has a website – almost. Paul Chasnoff has registered and ‘locked in’ three positions on the World Wide Web: Tofu.com, Soy.com, and WhiteWave.com. These give the company control of the on-ramp to the web.

1996 Jan. 8 – White Wave launches Silk, the first soymilk to be sold refrigerated – in the dairy case – in quart or half-gallon Pure-Pak/Gable Top cartons. It will be marketed mainly for use on breakfast cereal. It is the first soymilk that is not “mis-positioned.” This product will soon transform White Wave into a much, much larger company.

1999 Aug. 18 – Steve Demos is able to get Dean Foods Co., America's largest dairy company, to buy 36 percent of White Wave, thereby raising the capital he needs.

1999 Oct. 26 – U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows a health claim on soy products, saying that consuming 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease. (An 8-ounce glass of Silk has seven grams of soy protein).

grams of soy protein). "Sales blasted off. "They rose from $6 million

2002 May 8 – Dean Foods Co. purchases the remaining 64 percent of White Wave, Inc. for $189 million, bringing Dean's total investment in White Wave to approximately $204 million. White Wave will continue to operate autonomously.

Of this amount Demos distributed about $2 million among his employees, based on their position and years of service to the company. Some were janitors and some truck drivers. “There is nothing I have ever experienced that made me happier than the look on those people's faces. Disbelief. That look is priceless. The announcement brought some people to tears. I'm going to meet a man in 20 minutes who came up with the name ‘Silk.’ I paid him $10,000 for it at the time. I have a bottle of champagne here on my table, and I'm giving him that plus a million dollars.”

2002 June – Steve goes to Goldman-Sachs to give a presentation titled “Jack and the Beanstalk: A Modern Day Fairy Tale.” He talked about White Wave’s business model based on Right Livelihood [a basic Buddhist concept].

2003 April – White Wave has developed a special organic, non-GMO, kosher Silk soymilk coffee creamer which will be sold at 4,000 Starbucks locations in North America for use in latte or Tazo Chai.

2003 April – White Wave has become America’s largest corporate wind energy user. Last year the company purchased 20 million kilowatt hours of wind energy.

2003 May – “The power of soy: Refrigerated soymilk is blasting into the American mainstream. Consumers are looking at soymilk in a whole new light – and Silk is largely responsible.” Retail sales of all refrigerated soymilk “increased by more than 30% in 2002 to over $440 million, and Silk accounted for more than 80% of those sales” (Dean Foods Co. Annual Report 2002).

2003 Aug. 11 – Steve Demos reports that White Wave Silk is now in 96% of U.S. supermarkets.

2004 Sept. – Dean Foods has invited Steve Demos, founder of White Wave, to head its combined branded businesses: White Wave, Horizon Organic Dairy, and the Dean National Brand Group (which includes Marie's Salad Dressings, etc.). he group is renamed WhiteWave Foods.

2005 March 15 – Steve Demos is terminated, without cause, against his will, by Dean Foods. But Dean said he “stepped down.” He sends a “goodbye” email to all employees of White Wave.

2009 early – Silk, the leading brand of soymilk, quietly stopped using certified organic soybeans and removed the word 'organic' from its labels in favor of the more malleable term 'natural'. For quite a while, nobody noticed.” But by 2010 “the move was backfiring as Whole Foods (WFMI), one of Silk's major customers, is shunning Silk in favor of its own store brand and two other new brands of organic soymilk. It's a classic example of cost cutting gone awry” (CBS news).

After 2010 Dean Foods greatly decreased its advertising of White Wave Silk; product sales and awareness plunged.

2013 May 23 – Dean Foods completes spin-off of WhiteWave Foods Co. Gregg Engles becomes Chairman and CEO of WhiteWave Foods.

2017 April 12 – Danone completes its acquisition of White Wave, in a deal worth $10.2 billion. But by this time Silk has become a largely unknown brand in the USA.

2019 Nov. 13 – Dean Foods, the biggest milk producer in the U.S., declares bankruptcy.

Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of White Wave (1977-2022): America's Most Creative and Successful Soyfoods Maker