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Top Grocery Brands Comparison: Disturbing Truth About How Big Food Companies Exploit Your Shopping Habits

Category: Comparisons

Standing in the supermarket’s food section aisle you’re confronted with hundreds of different products compounded by the happy proliferation of subcategories. You have a wide choice of grocery items at your fingertips. Or have you?

A 2013 study by the U.S. consumer rights group, Food and Water Watch, made a comparison the market share of 100 common grocery items and unearthed a disturbing trend: you’re actually down to 2-4 top grocery brands when buying most grocery items.

Our SaaS software directory created this infographic to show a comparison of how big food companies plan out their grocery domination and exploit your shopping habits. Two crucial factors that influence their marketing strategy. They either clutter their designated aisle with their own “competing” brands or they extend across other aisles to sell you other products.

For instance, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!, Shedd’s Country Crock, Imperial, Promise and Brummel & Brown seem to be competing margarine brands, but they’re all owned by Unilever. Similar comparison can be made for ConAgra Foods that owns Blue Bonnet, Parkay and Fleishmann’s. Between the two giants alone you have eight supposed margarine choices and these are only the groups you know about. As much as 33 more categories are dominated by 2-4 big players. Clearly, that’s not much of a choice.

Likewise, through mergers, food companies get to own products that are traditionally outside of their core brands. Pepsi not only sells soft drinks and sports drinks, but also Mediterranean food, granola bars, hot cereal, popcorn, rice mixes, waffles and nuts. Similarly, Campbell Soup Co. sells beyond their iconic soup bases and offers Hispanic food, chilli and sloppy Joe sauce, fruit drinks, crackers and breads.

We smell monopoly. But you still can choose the right fit to your personal needs. Farmers’ markets offer a healthier option, where sellers are more likely to practice fair trade and their number is growing. The USDA reported there are 8,144 farmers markets now across the country, a shift from 5,000 in 2008. Admittedly, they’re still far and few in between, but it’s a bleep of hope  in the increasingly monopolized grocery food business.


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Nestor Gilbert

By Nestor Gilbert

Senior writer for FinancesOnline. If he is not writing about the booming SaaS and B2B industry, with special focus on developments in CRM and business intelligence software spaces, he is editing manuscripts for aspiring and veteran authors. He has compiled years of experience editing book titles and writing for popular marketing and technical publications.

GymW says:

Why was the bread category left out? Bimbo owns more that half the major labels on the bakery shelf.

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FoodCollector says:

On the upside, all of the companies mentioned in this post provide employment to hundreds of thousands, give support to local communities, pay huge taxes and do their share of corporate philanthropy. I agree wih some comments here that we must do our part if don't anymore want to support the continued monopoly of big business: cook our own meals, tend a farm, buy organic.

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MiraZen says:

A mind opening article, but we cannot really do anything about WHO controls the world. As a consumer, I am not so concerned about brands as the quality of the food I eat. And so, you have a choice between whole wheat crackers and calorie-packed Lay's potato chips... what gives? What's to prevent me from spreading Peter Pan Creamy Peanut Butter on toast? It's good and will not adversely affect my life expectancy so I will eat it.

Where I am, organic is more expensive and not so accessible so I end up in grocery aisles most of the time. I find consolation in a study released by the Annals of Internal Medicine that while organic food is safer than commercially produced ones, there's not much difference between the two in terms of nutritional content.

The decision to switch to organic or to stick to grocery brands is a personal one. Whether we want to live longer or be healthier, it utimately redounds to the lifestyle choices we make, and this extends beyond food. Excuse me as I turn off the TV and go out to exercise.

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GoLocoL says:

Way to stick your head in the sand and dismiss organic as a lifestyle choice that only pertains to you. Buying from/supporting these other companies that use toxic chemicals that are spread across the land, runoff into and pollute waterways etc. The Genetically Modified Organism crops that they plant cross contaminates heirloom crops and their use of Monsanto's poison glycophosphate is creating super weeds. Your ingestion of pesticide and chemically laced foods does have an impact on your health and well being and those you feed it too, especially if you have children. This in turn has the impact of driving up health costs and thus taxes (yeah, Obama Care is not free to run or have, at least for those of us taxed to support it).

Many people complain about the price of 'Organic' foods as they sit in front of a $1,000 plus TV and pay $125-150 a month for cable and go to the movie theater and spend $15-20 to watch one movie and another $5-10 for crap to cram in their mouths while they're there...several members of my family included. Boy, do they hate when I point out their shortsightedness.

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kitty good says:

What's very cool about this... I don't use any of "food" or "drink"! Well, maybe an occasional (once a quarter maybe) SBUX. Perks to being vegan/gluten free.

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Randy says:

Very little influence if you cook your own food. A lot cheaper as well.

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Paul Kelley Vieth says:

Beautiful and concise. I wish the oligopolization in every industry were made so readily apparent. I found this page because I recently made an infographic detailing the role of the sugar industry in the United States with emphasis on commerce, domestic politics, health, and the environment.

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Janet says:

Funny, I don't eat any of these foods, and I don't think anyone is forcing consumers to eat any of them either.

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charles says:

I don't mind not having real choice buying unhealthy processed foods. One way to dismantle this oligopoly is to buy your food in organic shops or independent grocery farmer's stores. They are healthier and practice fair trade more often than not. Consumers still have the last say,unless they're too lazy to effect a change.

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malcolm says:

This efficiency of scale driven by economic of realities (a.k.a. greed) is what scares me. If Pepsi doesn't care about the sugar levels in its soft drinks, it won't give a cent thinking about giving us healthy cereal options. Worse, these same giants dominate convenience stores selling the same sugary, fatty processed items. In one nationwide study, most low-income households rely on convenience stores and fast food chains for food because they don't have access to farmers' markets (too far). So this lack of real choice is a real social issue, not just economics.

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GoLocoL says:

One other 'group' that wasn't addressed, but seems like it should be, is when chain supermarkets have products produced for them. I can only assume that it's the big companies doing that, no?

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GoLocoL says:

Alex, I wish you'd gone a step deeper and looked at the owners and/or major shareholders of these 'parent' companies, such as how Philip Morris (Big Tobacco) owns Kraft, and how I'm sure they have the health and best interest of their customers at heart. Maybe a followup. Great infographic though, I will share at work.

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GoLocoL says:

not just sugar levels, but they color their beverages with a known carcinogen and aren't really planning on stopping. what's worse, is our government lets them get away with it and they're allowed to give it a benign name... "Caramel Coloring" Guess what, they're not using actual caramel to color it.

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Debra says:

Very disturbing. I'm glad that I didn't see some of the alternative brands like Erewhon listed. With this much dominance, there is very little motivation to change their "foods" to be healthier for the American public.

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Steve Savage says:

You have left out a great deal of what is in the grocery store and actually most of what I buy (fruits and vegetables, meats, eggs, wine...). As with most industries, there are efficiencies of scale. The degree of consolidation in any given industry is generally driven more by economic realities than by any "evil plot to control the food supply." Also, the existing consolidation does not block innovation as you can find new, small companies in most of these spaces. Sometimes when those get to be very successful they get acquired by the big players and those that innovated and those that invested in them get rewarded.

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