Written by: Wallace Merriman

Who’s Your Daddy? Guess 8 Surprising Ownerships in the Food Industry
Posted on:Apr 6, 2015

Can you guess which megacorp on the right owns each of the young brands on the left?
Solution after the jump.

Click to enlarge

In many cases, these baby brands don’t prominently display their parent company logo on their packaging or website because they want to retain an innocent, healthy image, one that is long gone in the multi-billion dollar conglomerates.

Here’s the list:

  1. Stoneyfield Farm, a producer of organic dairy products led by visionary entrepreneur Gary Hirshberg, is owned by French Danone Group, manufacturers of conventional Dannon Yogurt. It’s not full ownership, rather a majority stake.
  2. Horizon Organic is part-owned by Dean Foods, one of the largest conventional dairy and soy companies in the world.
  3. Cascadian Farm, purveyor of organic cereals, is owned of  General Mills. The brand is part of Small Planet Foods, whose portfolio includes Larabar and Muir Glen. General Mills acquired Small Planet  in 2000, to the dismay of some fans of Cascadian Farm.
  4. Not to be outdone, Kashi is owned by Kellogg’s since 2000.
  5. Ben and Jerry’s, eco-loving cows and all, is owned by Dutch food conglomerate Unilever.
  6. Honest Tea, Odwalla, Dasani water, and Sokenbicha Japanese tea are all owned by Coca Cola.
  7. Naked Juice is owned by PepsiCo.
  8. Jenny Craig, the fitness empire, is owned by Swiss Nestle. They now have an entire line of foods for weight loss…

What you need to know:
Many of the companies started out as small regional players. But getting shelf space in supermarkets is incredibly difficult. As are the distribution logistics when you want to grow from one metro area to several, or to expand nationally.

Becoming part of a big food corporation solves these two issues nicely. It usually brings in a tidy amount of cash to the founding team as well.
Sounds like a win-win. But what can be the downsides?

  • Degradation of product quality. This can happen because corporate HQ now demands cost cutting measures every quarter. It can also happen as a result of opting to work with cheap (i.e. Chinese) ingredients rather than more expensive locally sourced inputs.
  • Reformulation of products. Example: Cascadian Farm customer noticed a funny new taste one day. it turns out the cereal tripled its sugar count!

This doesn’t always happen. But it happens enough.

What to do at the supermarket:
Next time you pick up a cool and healthy looking brand thinking it must be from a small family run business, think again…

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