It might come as a surprise to learn that we actually don’t have that many product choices when it comes to grocery shopping. Despite aisles packed with dozens of products and brands, most of the standard food items you see in stores like Safeway, Costco and other popular grocery chains are owned by a small number of massive companies.
U.S. consumer rights group, Food and Water Watch, conducted a study in 2013 examining the market share of 100 common grocery items. The group’s research showed that when you’re grocery shopping and comparing eight different brands of margarine, for example, there are only two companies distributing these products. Instead of eight choices, you actually have just two.
Through mergers, companies can sell products they’re not typically known for, as Finances Online points out: “Pepsi not only sells soft drinks and sports drinks, but also Mediterranean food, granola bars, hot cereal, popcorn, rice mixes, waffles and nuts. Similarly, Campbell Soup Co. sells beyond their iconic soup bases and offers Hispanic food, chilli and sloppy Joe sauce, fruit drinks, crackers and breads.”
The problem with this set-up is that only a small number of companies and people are being put in charge of what most Americans eat. Many consumers are unknowingly supporting these companies and are made to believe they have numerous product choices, when in reality that’s an illusion. This is detrimental to our health and food supply since large food corporations are notoriously dedicated to profits over food safety. Monopolies are always unfair for consumers, but it’s especially dangerous when it comes to food. If ConAgra, PepsiCo or another one of these mega corporations wants to continue using Round-Up or GMO-seeds to produce more crops and has the funds to influence Washington, it will be difficult for non-GMO and organic supporters to be heard and influence food policy.
While most of the brands listed in this infographic are not found at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, natural grocery stores or at the farmers market, these common brands are a lot easier for many people to find at grocery stores. There are about 366 Whole Food stores in the U.S. with more opening, but there are 1,335 Safeways, so for many Americans the brands owned by these massive companies are simply more accessible. (As a side note, Safeway does sell organic food, too).
Budget living blog Finances Online put together the infograph below illustrating which companies own some of the most popular brands:
Image courtesy of Thomas Hawk via Flickr