Major Players in Food Industry
by Cathy Bussewitz and Mark Pickens •
Thursday August 29, 2002 at 02:35 PM
Food is big business. It’s more than a trillion dollar a
year industry in the U.S. and second only to pharmaceuticals
in profitability. Here are some of the major players,
their vast holdings, brands and other significant information.
An expanded report, covering more than 30 of the
most important food companies, is available as a center
column feature on our website at
($6.28 BILLION, 2001)
Industries: pesticides and genetically
modified (GM) seeds.
Food for thought: Bayer CropScience is the world’s
number two supplier of farm chemicals and seeds. The
company made Multinational Monitor’s Ten Worst
Corporations of 2000 when corn from its GM StarLink
seed illegally found its way into Taco Bell brand taco
shells, causing allergic reactions in 44 consumers.
CARGILL ($49.4 BILLION, 2001)
Industries: grain, cotton, sugar, salt, animal feed, fertilizer,
food processing, petroleum trading, financial
Food for thought: As the U.S.’s largest privately-owned
corporation, Cargill controls 45 percent of the global
grain market, and is one of the world’s largest producers
of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Farmers’ groups
around the world claim they are being put out of business
because such agribusiness conglomerates now control the
markets for both farming essentials and products.
COCA-COLA ($20.1 BILLION, 2001)
Brands: Barq’s, Coke, Dasani water, Dr. Pepper,
Fruitopia, Minute Maid, Powerade, Sprite.
Food for thought: Coca-Cola commands about 50
percent of the global soft-drink market. The company
made Multinational Monitor’s Ten
Worst Corporations list twice in
the past five years –- once in 1998
for its rabid marketing of sugary
drinks to children, and again in
2001 for a 30-year record of
human rights abuses in its overseas
operations. Most recently, Coke managers in Columbia
hired right-wing paramilitaries to intimidate, torture
and murder union leaders organizing for better wages
and working conditions.
CONAGRA FOODS ($27.19 BILLION, 2001)
Industries: processed food, dairy, oils, feed ingredients,
packaging, meat and poultry, agricultural products
Brands: Butterball, Chef Boyardee, HealthyChoice,
Hebrew National, Hunt’s Snack Pack, La Choy,
Lightlife, Parkay, Reddi-wip, Slim Jims, SmartDogs.
Food for thought: ConAgra is the largest food
supplier in North America, leading the way in meat
packing, french fry production and distribution of agricultural
chemicals. More than 30 of its brands top $100
million in sales. Twenty million
pounds of beef were sold to
American schools by a ConAgra
subsidiary, which from 1997-98
was cited for 171 “critical” food
safety violations. In 1995 ConAgra paid $13.6 million
to settle a lawsuit involving price fixing in the catfish
industry, and in 1989 was caught under-weighing over
45,000 truckloads of chicken.
DEAN FOODS ($6.23 BILLION, 2001)
Industries: Dairy, syrup, soy beverages, pickles, peppers
Brands: Borden, Creamland, Land O’Lakes, Sun Soy,
Food for thought: Not only is Dean Foods the leading
U.S. producer of fluid milk and dairy products, it has
also recently become the largest soymilk manufacturer.
DOLE FOOD ($4.49 BILLION, 2001)
Industries: fresh fruit,
vegetables, cut flowers, packaged
Food for thought: The
world’s largest producer of
fresh fruit and vegetables with active interests in 90
countries. Dole agreed in mid-July to pay up to $24 million
to 3,000 Honduran banana workers exposed to
sterility- and cancer-causing pesticides used on company
plantations over a 30-year period.
DOW CHEMICAL ($27.8 BILLION, 2001)
Industries: pesticides, fertizlizers.
Food for thought: The largest chemical company in
America. A major spill of 47,000 gallons of concentrated
Dursban insecticide in 1997 led to a major fish-kill
and contamination of water supplies in four Alabama
counties, causing nausea, diarrhea and
dizziness among citizens. Dursban is
the top selling pesticide in the world.
Dow recently purchased Union Carbide, but is refusing
to honor the company’s liabilities from the 1984 Bhopal
disaster in which 8,000 Indians were killed after poison
gas leaked from a pesticide factory.
INTERNATIONAL FLAVORS &
FRAGRANCES ($1.84 BILLION, 2001)
Industries: Chemical compounds used to flavor food
and produce scents in bathroom, household
and pharmaceutical products.
Food for thought: The world’s
largest flavor company, IFF flavors
many brands and is not required to list
ingredients. The line between artificial
and natural flavor has grown increasingly
thin as companies replicate the
chemical structure of natural ingredients, calling chemical
concoctions “natural flavoring.”
KRAFT FOODS ($33.8 BILLION, 2001)
Brands: Altoids, Jell-O, Kraft, Maxwell House,
Minute Rice, Miracle Whip, Nabisco, Oreo, Oscar
Meyer, Philadelphia cream cheese, Post, Ritz, Stove Top
Food for thought: Kraft Foods owner Philip Morris
didn’t need witchcraft to create a monster food company.
It just needed to know which companies to gobble up
and house under the Kraft umbrella. Kraft is the number
one food company in North America, holding the top
market share in 17 of its 20 top product categories. In
March 2002 Kraft Foods was part of a $9 million settlement
of a federal lawsuit regarding the use of Bayer’s
genetically modified StarLink corn in its taco shells.
KROGER ($50.1 BILLION, 2001)
Brands: Fred Meyer supercenters, Kroger’s supermarkets,
Kwik Stop and Quik Stop convenience stores,
Ralph’s Grocery, Smith’s Food and Drug Centers, Winn-
Food for thought: The leading U.S. grocer with 3,600
stores coast-to-coast, less than 15 percent of Kroger
sales come from stores bearing the company name.
Thanks to acquisitions, Kroger sells groceries under the
banner of some two dozen different store names. Kroger
also manufactures a wide variety of its own store brand
foods. In a move designed to take advantage of the $7.8
billion market for organic foods, Kroger will add “natural
foods” sections to its stores in 2003.
MONSANTO ($5.46 BILLION, 2001)
Industries: herbicides, genetically modified seeds
and food substitutes.
Food for thought: The world’s third largest agrichemical
company, Monsanto is developing a hammerlock
on farmers by leveraging its top-selling Roundup
herbicide and Roundup Ready GM seeds. Farmers that
purchase Monsanto’s seeds find they must also purchase
the herbicide to protect them. Such practices have
prompted farmers’ groups in India to burn Monsanto test
fields in protest, and earned Monsanto’s chief executive
officer a vegan tofu cream pie in the face. One Monsanto
officer said, “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the
safety of biotech foods. Our interest is in selling as much
of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the Federal Drug
Administration’s job.” Monsanto also produces the sugar
substitute marketed as NutraSweet and Equal.
NESTLE ($50.2 BILLION, 2001)
Brands: Alpo, Coffee Mate, Dairy Farm ice cream,
Friskies, Haagen-Dazs, L’Oreal, Lean Cuisine, Mighty
Dog, Nescáfe, Nestle's Quik, Perrier, Poland Spring,
Purina, Skillet Sensations, Stouffer’s.
Food for thought: The Swiss-headquartered Nestle is
the world’s largest food production
company with 495
factories and 230,000
employees around the world.
It has a mind-boggling array
of over 8,000 brands in its global larder. One of its bestselling
brands is Nescáfe instant coffee, 3,000 cups of
which are consumed worldwide every second.
SARA LEE ($17.7 BILLION, 2001)
Brands: Ball Park Franks, Best Kosher, Bryan, Chock
Full o’Nuts, Endust furniture polish, Hanes, Hillshire
Farms, Jimmy Dean, Kiwi shoe
polish, L’eggs, Pickwick teas,
Playtex, Sunbeam, Wonderbra.
Food for thought: Mention Sara
Lee and everyone thinks cheesecake,
but the corporation is all
about packaged meat and underwear, serving up a full
plate of sausage, hot dogs and lunch meats, bras, panties
and pantyhose. In 2001, Sara Lee cut a deal with federal
prosecutors as sweet as one of its famous cheesecakes:
plea bargaining to two misdemeanors and a $200,000
fine in exchange for dropping all other charges to 21
deaths and 100 injuries caused by bacteria-contaminated
Ball Park Franks hotdogs.
SYNGENTA ($6.32 BILLION, 2001)
Industries: agri-chemicals and genetically modified
Food for thought: Drug giants Novartis and
AstraZeneca merged in 2001 to form the world’s largest
agri-chemical and seed company. Syngenta now controls
more than 40 percent of the world’s patents on genetically
modified technologies, including what the company
calls “Terminator Technology,” or the ability to render
seeds sterile and force farmers to buy new stock each
year. Worldwide, 1.4 billion people rely on saved seed to
plant the next year’s crop.
TYSON FOODS ($10.79 BILLION, 2001)
Industries: chicken, beef, pork processing, animal
feeds, prepared foods.
Companies owned: Iowa Beef Processors,
Food for thought: Tyson’s recent acquisition of IBP
makes it the largest meat processing company in the
world, with more than a fifth of
the U.S. market. Tyson’s recall
of 35 million pounds of beef in
1997, the largest food recall in
history, was hidden from the public for three weeks,
allowing 25 million pounds to be consumed. Meat
packing is now the most dangerous job in the nation,
with an injury rate three times higher than a typical
American factory. Tyson successfully lobbied the state
of Missouri into halting welfare benefits for people
who refused their jobs.
There is an expanded version of this report available, too!
by Mark •
Wednesday September 11, 2002 at 11:11 AM
A special, expanded version of this report is available on-line at http://www.3wpress.com/players.html. Check it out!