When it comes to organic brands, it’s fascinating to see who owns who

Organic chart - who owns who January 2016

In the corporate world, money talks. And more corporate giants have been jumping on the organic bandwagon over the past few years. That’s due to the ever-increasing popularity of and demand for organic food product offerings.

But this trend has made for some very strange and sometimes suspicious bedfellows. After all, when titans of junk food, processed food and sugary beverages acquire brands long known for their top quality organic products, shouldn’t consumers be concerned that the quality will change? And isn’t that concern justified?

As you can see by the infographic, the examples of pairing and acquisitions make for some oddfellows. Companies such as Coca Cola now own Honest Tea, Odwalla) and J.M. Smucker (R.W. Knudsen and Santa Cruz Organic) and General Mills (with its oh-s0 sugary sweet cereals) which now owns Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm, and LaraBar. Yet these two megacorporations are among the food manufacturing leaders who spent millions to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in California and Washington. Their success continues to deny consumers the right to know exactly what is in our food.

Oregon’s Measure 522 would have mandated labeling on products that contain GMO ingredients. Large corporations including Coca Cola and General Mills spent millions to help defeat this measure.

“Consumers who want food companies that embody more of the original organic ideals would do well to seek out products from independent organic firms,” said Dr. Philip H. Howard, an associate professor in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State who created this remarkable graphic. “Given the very uneven playing field they are competing in, independent organic processors are unlikely to survive without such support.”

Originally published in 2003, the chart provides a snapshot of the structure of the organic industry, showing the acquisitions and alliances of the top 100 food processors in North America. Since its last update in 2013, there have been a few major changes.

There’s WhiteWave’s December 2013 acquisition of Earthbound Farm, the nation’s largest organic produce supplier, for $600 million. Also Coca-Cola acquired a 10% stake in Green Mountain Coffee for $1.25 billion, and Bimbo Bakeries (Mexico) purchased Canada Bread from Maple Leaf Foods (Canada) for $1.7 billion.

This information, along with data from The Cornucopia Institute’s scorecards rating organic brands of dairy, eggs, soy foods and breakfast cereals empower consumers to make smarter, healthier choices. The updated chart and scorecards are available for download at www.cornucopia.org.

To see an enlarged version of the above infographic, click here.

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