Who owns your favorite organic food label? Think most organic products and companies are independent- think again. Odwalla = Coca-Cola; Green and Blacks Chocolate = Cadbury; Cascadian Farms = General Mills. The list goes on and on. In fact, if you see it at a chain grocery store, your favorite organic or natural foods product is probably owned by a big corporation. See the graphic below for your favorite organic brand and their parent company.
It is the natural progression of business. In 2005, US organics accounted for 2.6% of the food market, growing at a rate of 17-20% a year resulting in a $52 billion industry in 2008.
The plus side
- Organic food is easy to find, is plentiful and the costs are reasonable.
- The food is predictable in quality, flavor and taste. Often smaller producers have a smaller production line and work in small batches with less strict ingredient or quality controls. While this can add to the uniqueness, it occasionally can produce unexpected results.
- It can expand the organic market, adding and converting farmers and updating practices to the mainstream.
The minus side
- It is difficult for small labels to compete, or expand beyond their local distribution network.
- Often you will find less variety and more processing as these growing newly-corporate brands age.
- The companies may begin to change their values, altering and dropping expensive or non-growth-related practices.
What you can do
If this news is troubling to you, try shopping at smaller local stores and farmers markets. These are the best ways to find local organic producers and products. Be proactive- keep up on the practices of your favorite organic brands to ensure they don’t change once acquired by larger corporations. Many organic companies retain their management, values and practices and are managed as a ‘hands off’ brand. Since organic practices can vary from company to company (within the standards), it is always a good idea to know the practices of your favorite brands.
Infographic by Philip H Howard of Michigan State University