WhiteWave Foods has defended the US launch of yogurts under the Rachel's brand name after criticism from farming groups.

The company, a unit of US dairy giant Dean Foods, has faced flak for producing the Rachel's Wickedly Delicious yogurts with conventional milk. In the UK, the Rachel's brand name is synonymous with organic produce.

However, WhiteWave has fought back and insisted that the Rachel's yogurts launched in the US also contain organic milk. "At launch, the milk used in Rachel's products does come from certified organic family farms from the Midwest," said Carolina Fryer, Rachel's brand manager in the US.

Nevertheless, the company could not confirm that it will continue to produce the range of yogurts with organic milk. Fryer told just-food: "How long we continue to use organic milk in Rachel's products will depend upon supply and availability."

WhiteWave - and Dean Foods more widely - has also been slammed by shareholders, who have claimed that the company's "corporate-owned factory-scale organic dairies" are hurting the company's image in the eyes of consumers.

Shareholders have also blamed Dean Foods for helping to create the excess supply of organic milk in the US. Last month, Dean Foods was forced to admit that the excess supply in the organic dairy market would hit profits.

Fryer denied that WhiteWave and Dean Foods are motivated solely by the bottom line. "Dean and WhiteWave Foods are in business to provide consumers with choices that meet a wide variety of needs and tastes, which is why we offer conventional dairy products, organic dairy products, value added dairy products and soymilk."