Food Fight Over: Boycott Against Bolthouse Products Ends

by Steve Weinstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday October 9, 2008

Californians Against Hate has called off their boycott of Bolthouse Farms.

Nearly a month ago, opponents of Proposition 8, led by Caifornians Aganst Hate, started what they called a "soft boycott" of Bolthouse Farms.

Among the largest producers of fresh-cut carrots in the world, the juice and smoothie maker is a popular brand in heath-food stores and upscale supermarkets like Whole Foods. Proposition 8 is the controversial measure before California voters Nov. 4, that, if passed, will make gay marriage once again illegal in the Golden State. Both sides are fighting hard, although the No on 8 forces are being outspent and have recently seen their poll numbers drop.

William Bolthouse Jr., the company's founder, had donated $100,000 to help get the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot. Californians Against Hate wanted gay and lesbian shoppers and their friends to know it. The group figured it was truth in labeling.

Demonstrations at the "rock 'n' roll" Ralphs, as it's called in a Los Angeles Times story on the boycott, located on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood and Whole Foods markets in New York City and Washington, D.C., garnered publicity for the No on 8 forces--and put an unwanted spotlight on what had been a low-flying and very successful entrepreneurial farm operation based in Bakersfield, Calif.

The gay blogosphere picked up the boycott, with Towleroad, JoeMyGod, Queerty and others publicizing and pushing the boycott. On Oct. 8, the company and the advocacy group met and issued a joint statement that effectively ended the boycott.

The "Don't Buy Bolthouse" campaign ended because the company's chief executive "has provided us with a compelling perspective which clearly demonstrates the separation between Bolthouse Farms and ... its founder, William Bolthouse," Californians Against Hate said Wednesday in a written statement. That perspective, the statement continued, "provides us with confidence that Bolthouse Farms is committed to working productively with the [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community."

Bolthouse issued a statement that "thanks Californians Against Hate for recognizing our work to meet our mission of showing respect and integrity to our employees, our vendors and our customers."

Since the boycott began, Bolthouse Farms tried to make good with the LGBT community. The company pointed out that William Bolthouse Jr. made the donation through his own personal foundation, which had no connection to the company. "Mr. Bolthouse's personal actions are not related to Bolthouse Farms, the consumer products farming company, in any way," the company said in a statement.

Further William Bolthouse himself is not involved any longer with Bolthouse Farms. The connection ended three years ago, when he sold his interest in the company to Madison Dearborn Partners, a Chicago-based private equity firm that owns 72 percent of the company.

The company's release even went so far as the state that "Bolthouse Farms neither supports, tracks, nor in any way influences or condonesthe activities of the Bolthouse Foundation."

The statement quoted gay activist Lane Hudson who wrote that, "Bolthouse Farms sponsored the NGLTF LA Awards Brunch as a Gold Sponsor and the CEO personally contributed $5K to their No on 8 work. Bolthouse Farms was also a corporate table sponsor of the HRC National Dinner.

"In addition," he added, "they have clarified their non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation. They also clarified their benefits policy to include dependent children of same sex relationships."

Californians Against Hate are continuing their boycotts of the San Diego hotels owned by Doug Manchester and A-1 Self-Storage, whose owner Terry Caster donated almost $300,000 to Yes On 8.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).