Clean Plate

Do You Buy Your Groceries From Big Companies or Small?

Food companies have consolidated; only a few control most of our food supply. I went over a recent grocery list to see how many of the products I buy come from large companies. I’ve defined a “big” company as one that either appears on this list of   top 100 food processors , or I’ve included other relevant information to determine a company’s size. Big companies are bolded. Here’s what I discovered:

Alderfer’s Eggs: private poultry farm (less than 20 employees)
Angel Soft toilet paper: Georgia Pacific (40,000 employees)
Boca veggie burgers: Kraft
Farmland Milk: LALA Foods
Gardenburger veggie burgers: Kellogg’s
General Mills Cheerios: General Mills
Goya beans (family-owned: 3,000 employees)
Guittard chocolate: Guittard Chocolate Company (“family-owned and operated for four generations,” according to their Web site)
Health Valley crackers: Hain, which is owned by Heinz [Correction, Jan. 27, 2011: Heinz no longer owns a stake in Hain, but it is still a large company. According to their 2010 annual report, Hain-Celestial did $917.3 million in sales last year.]
Kohinoor brown rice: Kohinoor Foods Limited (800-plus employees)
La Squisita canned tomatoes: Private company. (less than 50 employees)
Organic Valley cottage cheese: farmer-owned cooperative
Post Grape-Nuts cereal: Post Foods, LLC., acquired by Ralcorp
Sarabeth’s preserves: Sarabeth’s Kitchen (family-owned, has just one 15,000-square-foot factory)
Satur Farms vegetables: private company (about 65 employees)
ScottBrand Tissue: Kimberly-Clark (56,000 employees)
Seventh Generation laundry liquid: Seventh Generation Inc. (100 employees)
Tropicana: PepsiCo.

Approximately half the products I bought that week were produced by large companies. Some of this I knew, but not all. Here’s a chart of which large companies have acquired which organic food producers .

It’s also important to note that “small” or “private” does not necessarily equate with benevolent and well-meaning. [Addendum, Jan. 27, 2011: I also should have said that big doesn’t necessarily mean bad.]