In case you haven’t noticed, we’re living in a world that’s increasingly the domain of a handful of massive companies. And this definitely holds true for the foods we eat and the beverages we drink. In fact, nearly all the packaged foods we buy are produced by just 10 companies.
General Mills can trace its history back to 1856, and today it’s raking in more than $17 billion annually. Aside from the many cereals produced by General Mills (like Cheerios, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and Chex), the company also owns brands including Betty Crocker, Pillsbury, Nature Valley, Hamburger Helper, Cascadian Farm, Annie’s Homegrown, Muir Glen, Progresso, and Totino’s (of pizza rolls fame).
Founded in 1936, Smithfield is today the world’s largest pork processor (producing about six billion pounds per year), and is in turn owned by China-based Shuanghui Group. The company owns about 50 brands of pork products as well as 200 different foods; its core brands include Armour, Cook’s, John Morrell, Farmland, and Healthy Ones. The company also produces packaged grocery foods for Cracker Barrel (now called CB Old Country Store to avoid confusion with the Kraft-owned cheese brand) and Nathan’s.
The merger of Kraft and Heinz in 2015 gave rise to the world’s third largest food and beverage company, worth about $46 billion. Oscar Mayer, Ore-Ida, Classico, Velveeta, Capri Sun, Kool-Aid, Jell-O, Philadelphia cream cheese, Lunchables, Planters, Maxwell House, Grey Poupon, A-1, Lea & Perrins, Miracle Whip, Stove Top, and Shake ‘n Bake are just a handful of the scores of brands owned by this massive food company.
ConAgra is another major packaged foods company, but it’s lesser-known because it doesn’t have any eponymous brands, like Pepsi or Kraft. It owns plenty of products you’ve heard of, though, including Act II popcorn, Bertolli, Banquet frozen meals, Chef Boyardee, Crunch ‘n Munch, Egg Beaters, Fleischmann’s, Gulden’s mustard, Healthy Choice, Hebrew National, Hunt’s, Jiffy Pop, Manwich, Marie Callender’s, Reddi-wip, Ro-Tel, Slim Jim, Swiss Miss, and Wesson oil.
This Belgium-based beverage company has about 500 beer brands across the world. We bet you’ve heard of plenty of them: They include Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois, Beck’s, Hoegaarden, Leffe, Bass, Blue Point, Busch, Franziskaner, Goose Island, Labatt, Löwenbräu, Michelob, Modelo, Natural Light, O’Doul’s, Presidente, Rolling Rock, Shock Top, and Spaten.
Coca-Cola was invented in 1886 by pharmacist John Pemberton, but today it’s a lot more than just a fizzy beverage of questionable origin. The Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company also owns more than 350 brands in more than 200 countries, including Barq’s, Dasani, Fairlife, Fanta, Fresca, Fruitopia, Fuze, Glacéau, Hi-C, Honest Tea, Minute Maid, Mr. Pibb, Nestea, Odwalla, Powerade, Seagram’s, Simply Orange, Smartwater, Tab, Vitaminwater, Zico, and, of course, Sprite.
JBS is the largest cattle feeder in the world, and the world’s largest processor and marketer of beef, pork, and lamb. The company owns Smithfield’s beef operations, 75 percent of Pilgrim’s Pride Chicken Company, and Cargill’s pork processing business, and a large percentage of the meat we buy at the supermarket comes from them.
Tyson is second only to JBS in terms of processing chicken, beef, and pork, and while you’ll find the Tyson name stamped onto lots of the meat you buy, with its subsidiaries it also operates plenty of other major food brands, including Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Sara Lee, Ball Park, Wright, Aidell’s, and State Fair.
Formed in 1965 with the merger of Pepsi-Cola and Frito-Lay, PepsiCo is America’s largest food and beverage business by net revenue. As opposed to Coca-Cola, which is focused almost exclusively on beverages, PepsiCo’s portfolio consists of 53 percent foods and 47 percent beverages. The company owns several hundred brands, including 22 brands that consistently exceed $1 billion in annual sales. These top-selling products include Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Lay’s potato chips, Gatorade, Tropicana, 7-Up, Doritos, Lipton teas, Quaker foods, Cheetos, Ruffles, Aquafina, Tostitos, and Fritos. Other well-known brands owned by PepsiCo include Rold Gold, Sun Chips, Cracker Jack, Aunt Jemima, Rice-A-Roni, SoBe, Sabra hummus, Smartfood, and Stacy’s Pita Chips.