The Farmplate Blog

Organic Food Increasingly Owned by Industrial Food Giants

Jeff Gangemi Feb 07, 2012 Real Food 0 comments

According to research by Philip H. Howard, an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University, a surprising few of the organic food brands many of us buy are independently owned. In fact, if they aren’t on this list or available anywhere but in markets or stores that sell local food, then they are almost surely owned by one of the largest food companies in the world.

If you look at the top chart on this page, you’ll find evidence of a huge wave of consolidation in the organic industry between 1997 and 2009. Thus, it has become increasingly challenging to know where our food and drink is coming from. Since 2009, there have been a number of other big-name acquisitions, namely Coca-Cola’s full acquisition of Honest Tea in 2011. 

Some of the most successful small organic brands (think Muir Glen, which is now owned by General Mills) began as start-up food enterprises – the kind that FarmPlate is working to promote. According to Denise Breyley of Whole Foods Market, who we interviewed for a piece back in November, it’s the express goal of many small food enterprises to achieve wider distribution and eventually become an acquisition target.  

Small local food producers being bought out by huge multinational conglomerates is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if, like Seth Goldman of Honest Tea has said, being acquired by Coca-Cola helps his company to achieve their “goal of making healthier products more broadly available.” 

But it’s still important for conscious consumers to have access to resources like that produced by Professor Howard, so that we can make decisions with open eyes. At FarmPlate, our goal is to help consumers get access to more of that information, so that more of us have the option to support the small, the local, the community-based.