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printable versionfood + nutrition

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 www.nyc.indymedia.org.

BAYER CROPSCIENCE ($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 trading, steel.
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, and Tucsan.
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 foods.
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 stuffing, Velveeta.
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- Dixie supermarkets.
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 seeds.
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, Hudson Foods.
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.

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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!

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