Do You Buy Your Groceries From Big Companies or Small?

Outrageous experiments in sensible eating.
Jan. 26 2011 3:03 PM

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:

/blogs/cleanplate/2011/01/26/do_you_buy_your_groceries_from_big_companies_or_small/jcr:content/body/slate_image

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.

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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.]

Ellen Tarlin is a former Slate copy chief and writer of the "Clean Plate" blog. Her essays have appeared in the Boston Globe, the Boston PhoenixBrooklyn Bridge, Bark, and  the RISK storytelling podcast. Follow her on Twitter.

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