Drawing on research done by Phil Howard at Michigan State University, the article shows how dozens of the major brands in health food are actually owned by only 13 large food conglomerates. For example, take the juice and smoothie brands Odwalla and Naked Juice. They have such great personalities, and were started by small, visionary entrepreneurs. When you visit their Web sites, you think they are still small, grass-roots companies. Today, they are owned by Coca-Cola and Pepsi, respectively. The trend is that as consumers look for more and more healthy food alternatives, the big guys decide they want a piece of the action.
The article goes on to describe that almost all of the health food purchased by consumers in the U.S. passes through two main distributors, United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) and Tree of Life (which was recently purchased by KeHE Foods). UNFI and KeHE pick up the products from food manufacturers and deliver them to grocery stores nation-wide. This means there is a bottle-neck in getting a product in the “natural and organic category” of grocery items to market. Either food producers distribute through these two distributors, along their terms, or their products are virtually not distributed at all.
It makes us wonder: How do these companies shape the way we eat? Do we decide what foods get to our table, or do they decide for us?
We’d love to know your thoughts.