Who Owns All The Organic Companies?

Who really owns some of the biggest organic brands in the country? GOOD magazine made one of their sexy graphs to show you. For instance, Coke owns Odwalla, Pepsi owns Naked, and Kraft owns Boca Burgers. The chart also shows you that these parent companies are among the top 30 food processing companies. Not like we’re talking a giant scandal or anything, it’s just interesting to know more about where your food is really coming from. Just because it’s organic doesn’t mean it was made on a happy communal love-farm .

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. Moosehawk says:

    I’m not really an organic hippie or anything, but it’s still an interesting chart. I must say though, if Naked Juice didn’t cost so much, my fridge would be constantly stocked with it.

  2. anatak says:

    It may have been a happy communal love-farm at one time, but a few years back, companies figured out that it was much easier to buy up these little organic brands that already had a following, than it was to start their own (that would likely be BS anyways) from the ground up.

  3. DeleteThisAccount says:

    Yeah this is a bit disturbing, but its the way of the world. Sort of like how Toms of Maine is owned by one of the big boys now too. Hopefully the corporate overlords let their flower children do their own thing.

  4. satoru says:

    This is a common misconception of the ‘organic’ and ‘all natural’ philosophy. Especially when its based on ‘sticking it to the corporation’ type of thing. Corporations aren’t stupid, they own all these companies, and all the health supplement companies as well. If you think its healthier or whatever, that’s fine. But if you think you’re bucking the system, the only way to do that is to visit a farmer’s market and buy it directly.

  5. Elvisisdead says:

    Well, and just because it says USDA organic, it doesn’t really mean that it actually is…..

  6. selectman says:

    This highlights what will become a growing problem for consumers as more and more “big boys” enter the game – the possible dilution of the USDA Organic certification. If the government can’t keep up, there’s no doubt there will be pressure from industry to cut corners. Of course, this could eventually render the (actually enforced) Organic label as meaningless as (unenforced) “All Natural”

  7. char says:

    I’m surprised by some of those too. Hershey’s owns Dagoba? wow, Dagoba is great stuff.

    Of course, if you go a level higher, how many of those companies are owned by Philip morris (Altria) or ran by that group? I know kraft is (though now traded seperately)

    Organic doesn’t mean shit any more either way. Judge by the individual quality of the brand, not by the weak ass lable. On that list for example, Horizon uses ass the same factory farming techniques, and is under investigation for using antibiotics.

    On the other hand, Muir Glenn Tomatoes, even if they aren’t happy hippy local food (which I’m a big supporter of) are the best canned tomatoes on the market. I’d buy those if they had to drill them out of ANWR they are so good. Especially the fire roasted ones, OM NOM NOM

  8. Wally East says:

    Interesting. I’ve read about a number of these companies being bought by their now-parent companies because they’re doing so well. As long as they are allowed to continue doing their thing, that’s okay with me.

    It’s equally interesting to see which of the top-30 food processing companies don’t own organic brands, such as Dole and Chiquita. Not to say they don’t offer organic products, of course.

  9. Steve Trachsel, Ace says:

    Sadly the organic, locally owned produce place in my old hometown just closed up shop. They had all sorts of soups, salads and meals, but the Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods of the world basically drove them out of business.

  10. remusrm says:

    chipotle is owened by mcshit and that is kind of heathly…

  11. nutrigm says:

    wow what an eye opener. Who’da ever thunk Kashi was owned by Kellogg’s!

  12. thirdbase says:

    Organic produce is simply the row that the crop duster missed.

  13. stevegoz says:

    Kellogg’s owns Morningstar Farms? That explains why each two-ounce Griller goes for a buck! Why, for the kind of money I can get a double cheeseburger at McDonald’s….

  14. Moosehawk says:

    @remusrm: I don’t think eating one pound of anything at one time is considered “healthy.”

  15. glass says:

    @satoru:

    This just in… large corporations have bought out ALL of the farmer’s markets.

    Dratts.

  16. selectman says:

    @remusrm: Go see how nutritious Chipotle is: [www.chipotlefan.com]

  17. MYarms says:

    Luckily I still have access to a wonderful farmer’s market where I buy produce for less than 1/3 of what they charge at the local supermarkets. I don’t buy into the organic hype either. I think its just another reason to charge more money for the same foods and I haven’t found organic anything that actually tastes better so I think I’ll just stick to the pesticide filled stuff I’ve been eating for the past 30 years. It hasn’t killed me yet.

  18. ElasticSyntax says:

    To play devil’s advocate for a sec, while it sucks that Big Agra is buying up the little guys, at least there are now better options for economically/geographically disadvantaged consumers out there.

  19. stinerman says:

    @AngrySicilian:
    @anatak:

    Burt’s Bees is owned (or will be) by Clorox. There are very few good companies who aren’t owned by FACELESS MEGACORP 72A.

  20. ancientsociety says:

    @satoru: “they own all these companies”

    ummm, no, not ALL, just the big ones. It IS possible to buy organic w/o it going to an agribusiness giant.

    “But if you think you’re bucking the system, the only way to do that is to visit a farmer’s market and buy it directly.”

    I do that too. Huh, guess I really AM “bucking the system”, eh?

  21. APFPilot says:

    And “Animal Friendly” Bert’s Bees is owned by Animal Testing Lovers Tide.

  22. johnva says:

    @Moosehawk: Also, they aren’t owned by McDonald’s. At one time McDonald’s had a stake in them, but they no longer do.

  23. chrisjames says:

    What, did anyone think organic products were made for any reason besides profits? If it’s a money maker, what’s wrong with people acquiring it for their own gain? We do that all the time with our investments. Just because I buy into Odwalla doesn’t necessarily mean the quality is going down, especially if it’s the quality that’s making the money.

  24. johnva says:

    While this should be obvious, just because a company is owned by a large corporation does not mean that their stuff is produced in the same way as the corporation’s other brands. Corporations have different brands in order to sell different products to different markets. Some of these subsidiary companies are perfectly fine; others are not so good as far as organic companies go.

    If things like the actual production process are important to you, research the brand you are buying. Don’t just rely on the “organic” label. Some of the organic brands are much better than others (for example, in dairy products).

  25. TWSS says:

    Anyone who’s read The Omnivore’s Dilemma already knows that USDA organic means very little and if you’re buying it in a chain grocery, it probably comes from agribusiness.

    I wish I could get all my produce from farm stands and farmer’s markets, but it’s difficult to find any, even here in the Pacific Northwest, that are open between October and April and accessible to someone without a car. May to September is a cakewalk, but right now I’m stuck with mostly the same transcontinental crap as everyone else.

  26. katylostherart says:

    not surprising.

  27. synergy says:

    I don’t eat any of those except Kashi. I tried Odwalla once and didn’t really care for it.

    The “organic” label doesn’t mean what it used to. In April 2004 the National Organic Program standards were changed in all sorts of ways, allowing pesticides, hormones, and other practices to go on and still allow the use of the organic label.

  28. badgeman46 says:

    Organic= overpriced, sometimes sub-par food meant to appease “eco-guilt” in hippies, soccermoms, and the starbucks demographic.

  29. badgeman46 says:

    The true irony is that Kraft Foods is owned by the Altria group, aka Phillip Morris. So your organics are actually brought to you by big tobacco!

  30. If it has been packaged and shipped thousands of miles using fossil fuels to get to your fridge, is it eally Organic? Any die-hard sustainable organic farmer will say no.

    It is still better than the alternative, but only slightly. And if you think free-range means anything, think again.

    Also, how could all-natural and organic have two different meanings? If a bread is made of grains that have been sprayed with pesticides, it can not be called organic, but it can be labeled “All-Natural”. The pesticides are not natural, and should be listed as an ingredient in the food.

  31. bohemian says:

    local food grown using natural organic based growing methods is probably better than mega-corp mass produced USDA organic stuff.

  32. amoeba says:

    Wonderful to know that Lifeway Foods doesn’t belong to a big corp. I used to buy Naked Juice, but besides the prices (a bit expensive), it doesn’t taste that organic. BTW, who eats kashi? ewwww!

  33. greensmurf says:

    100% Guaranteed Organic = when you grow your fruits and vegi’s in your own garden (even then you dont know if pesticides were used or remain in the dirt prior to your planting.

  34. Steve Trachsel, Ace says:

    @amoeba: Doesnt taste that organic???

    Are you freaking serious with that? How does Organic juice taste?

  35. teh says:

    @TWSS: While I understand your complaint about not finding fresh locally grown produce year round, that’s unfortunately the way things work. You have to work within the limits of the seasons; you can’t get fresh peaches in December without having them shipped from halfway across the world. Learn how to freeze and can. Your preserved fruits and veggies will still taste better in the winter than the “fresh” ones from the store.

  36. amoeba says:

    @Tracy Ham and Eggs: Make you own juice and then buy Naked and compare them. I buy my organic juice from small and local farmers. They taste great and rich. Naked, not so much…

  37. johnva says:

    @amoeba: I doubt the difference between these two sources has much to do with “organic” vs. “non-organic”. More likely, it’s freshness or degree of processing that is different with your local stuff.

    “Organic” ONLY means something about the process used to produce the food, in general. It doesn’t necessarily mean much about the final product.

  38. randombob says:

    @char:

    Here here on the Muir Glen.

  39. amoeba says:

    @johnva: + others, you can taste the difference with non organic foods, or you may say that the “frozen vegetables” taste the same as fresh vegetables? My home grown tomatoes don’t taste the same as the ones in the super market, even they say “organic”. I can, maybe you don’t, but at the end those Naked products are still processed. End of my discussion.

  40. RoxnSox says:

    Yay, a company I work for made it into the consumerist…wait, is that a good thing? Heinz only owns 18% of our stock though, they don’t have too much control over us.

  41. EvilSquirrel says:

    I do not understand why people are so upset. These companies have created products that meet the guidelines for USDA organic food. If you do not think this guideline is stringent enough, go find some that meet your beliefs. It seems to me that people just want to hate these corporations while masquerading under the pretenses of wanting organic food.

    Maybe if more people read what the guidelines for USDA Organic were, they wouldn’t be shocked when they find out that Kraft foods can compete in this market too. If you want locally produced food, go to a farmer’s market or a co-op.

  42. johnva says:

    @amoeba: You’re missing my point. My point is that you are attempting to redefine what organic means to what you wish it meant.

    I’m not saying that your local vegetables are not better than some frozen organic ones shipped across country. I’m saying that that big difference has little to do with anything involved with meeting the USDA Organic standard. The frozen veggies are just as “organic” under the standard as local organic ones…even if they’re not as fresh or good.

  43. elislider says:

    Hah thats funny. Pepsi owns Naked juice and Coke owns Odwalla. fancy that

  44. brennie says:

    OMG Consumerist! This is SO five minutes ago. Don’t you know that Kosher is the new Organic?

  45. teh says:

    @brennie: You mean like the Kosher bacon they sell at the Chinese grocery store?

  46. TWSS says:

    @teh: I understand full well that eating locally means, for me at least, that fall and winter fruits consist of apples and pears, full stop. I can’t even get THOSE, though, without driving out to some BFE U-Pick place. I can’t even get local kale right now, because none of the farmer’s markets are open.

    As far as freezing and canning are concerned, I’m too cheap to buy a ginormous chest freezer (and pay the electric bills to keep it chugging along all winter) and too lazy to can expensive summer fruit only to risk it going bad when I inevitably mess it up. Besides, who has the room to store all that stuff?

  47. Mike_ says:

    Here are some similar charts from a professor at Michigan State.

  48. goodywitch says:

    @amoeba: When did you try Naked Juice? When I first had it, it tasted like a “lightly pasteurized” smoothie drink, then a few years later, it was made from concentrate, and at that point I may as well buy Dole at the supermarket. Haven’t had any since then. Anyone know when Pepsi bought it?

    I think it’s a success story that so many small organic businesses generated enough business that a large corporation is interested in acquiring the company. As long as they don’t change the process, they make it available for more people (like Tom’s used to be only at Trader Joe’s, well, that all I ever found them at. Now they’re in more mainstream places).

    Now, if they just had real standards for organic, that would be great.

  49. @TWSS: You could start your very own winter produce co-op to get the apples and pears and kale ever so much more conveniently. :) Your neighbors would appreciate it.

    We eat mostly-local in the summer, but, yeah, in the winter, it’s the supermarket. We still buy only U.S. (or Canadian, or sometimes EU but we don’t get much of that) produce and I try to be mindful of where it’s from, and I don’t eat things wildly out of season (which are typically from not-here anyway), but dude, I’d get scurvy otherwise.

  50. XianZomby says:

    This isn’t about “bucking the system” or “sticking it to” big corporations. It’s changing the system. The more you buy these products the more of them they will make. Then it means a larger portion of these companies profits are coming from foods people consider ethically superior, or healthier. When that happens, these companies will change. And then you can hate them less — if you are already a big company hater.

  51. Michael Belisle says:

    Dear Good Magazine:

    I have reformatted your two-page spread so that it fits in a few lines:

    Kraft (#1)
    Boca Foods
    Back to Nature

    Pepsi (#3)
    Naked Juice

    General Mills (#6)
    Cascadian Farm
    Muir Glen

    Dean (#7)
    Horizon
    The Organic Cow of Vermont
    Alta Dena
    White Wave / Silk

    Conagra (#9)
    Lightlife
    Alexia Foods

    See how that works?

    Sincerely,
    Michael Belisle

    Ben,

    Please stop calling Good’s charts sexy. I hope you’re kidding. My brain wants to explode each time I see how little information they convey in such a large area.

    Sincerely,
    Michael Belisle

  52. R3PUBLIC0N says:

    Natural, organic, or not, I drink Odwalla’s superfood because it’s a lot of sustenance for $6.50. Seriously, I can have a glass of that and stave off hunger, and I’m an Italian guy who likes to eat.

  53. privatejoker75 says:

    I love Naked’s OJ. Now i’m wondering who owns Bolthouse Farms

  54. TangDrinker says:

    If these corporations didn’t own these companies, do you think you’d be able to find Odwalla or Burt’s Bees in your local grocery store (if you live outside of huge cities)?

    My parents were hippies in the 1970’s and 1980’s – and grew/canned/froze tons of vegetables, had the chickens and the eggs, etc, but when my mom wanted to buy tofu or just plain brown rice, she had to search out the stores that carried it (this was in S.E. CT – the armpit of New England). Later, when I was in high school, I worked at a Natural Foods Center (NFC)store – it was the only place in the late 80’s where you could buy organic junk food, juices, etc. Now – you can get these things at the gas station.

    And canning isn’t just something you can do by reading a book – you really need to take a class/find someone older to show you. Botulism is real. But home made strawberry jam kicks ass.

  55. cerbie says:

    @greensmurf: yet, even that’s only 100% if you can control what gets sprayed all over them. I’d have to set up an indoor garden for that.

  56. cerbie says:

    @TangDrinker: yes. I guess it depends on where you are, but Burt’s Bees stuff, especially, has been widely available since well before they were bought in ’04 (then, ’07).

    Some are harder find, and in many cases the boyouts are win-win: megacorp makes money, people making the stuff make money, and it’s easier for you to get it, because they use the megacorps established infrastructure.

    Of course, sometimes the megacorp will get in the way, and the quality will go down, as well. I wish it were easier to get stuff from good local growers. When I can, it’s awesome, but you practically have to fight off other customers when any of the health food stores get the good fresh veggies in :).

    Often times, with common packaged goods, it’s just a matter of being decent quality at a slight price premium. Example time. I’m up for making quick and easy meals, and love rice, pasta, and beans…so I like to keep some broth around, especially vegetable broth, as I can work it into anything. Even the “low sodium” ones of the brands like Swanson and such taste like crap, and have too much salt—adding no more salt to the rest of the meal, it will be too salty. And what is that yellow gelatinous stuff that floats in it, anyway?

    So, I’ve come to buying Pacific’s organic veggie broth. It tastes good (not as good as making some, but it doesn’t take an hour or more, either), and doesn’t have too much damn salt (940mg/C v. 440mg/C v. 140mg/C)! Being certified USDA Organic is incidental.

    As time goes by, that’s getting expanded out across different types of foods I buy, as I find things that are actually better, and cases of previously good brands going south (such as Bertolli tomato sauces having more sugar than they used to—I’d rather the price have gone up a bit, or a Whole Foods open up nearby).

  57. Thorkel says:

    What matters is not who owns the “organic” company but whether the owner lets them do the right thing.