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Who owns what?

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Sales of "natural" and organic foods have nearly tripled since 2001 and currently exceed $91 billion. What started as small, niche businesses are now part of the global mainstream. In fact, very few of those companies are owned by their founders. Instead, global food giants have acquired nearly every brand which used to be thought of as for hippies only.

The list of who owns who will surprise you:

• Cascadian Farms (organic greens) and Muir Glen (organic canned goods) are owned by General Mills
• Dagoba chocolate is part of Hershey Foods
• Horizon organic milk is owned by Dean
• Tribe Mediterranean Foods (maker of everyone’s favorite hummus) is Nestle's
• Odwalla juice, Vitamin Water, Honest Tea and Simply Orange are part of Coca-Cola
• Naked Juice is part of Pepsi
• Kashi cereals and Morninstar farms (veggie burgers, etc.) are owned by Kellogg.
• Heinz has a “strategic alliance” with Hain Celestial, maker of the Westsoy, Earth’s Best, Spectrum Organics, Garden of Eatin’, Arrowhead Mils, Rice Dream, Soy Dream and Celestial Seasonings.
• Chorox bought Burt's Bees
• Kellogs owns Kashi and Gardenburger.

In fact, 80 percent of organic brands are now owned by mega-corporations.

Problems often arise for social and health conscious consumers when their favorite brands are bought by a conglomerate. First, it is quite common for the new parent company to reduce its commitment to organic and natural ingredients and look for cheaper substitutes. Another issue is that natural food consumers might be unknowingly contributing to the support of practices that they would normally disapprove.

For example, mega food companies like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Kellogg who own many organic brands, joined forces with Monsanto to finance efforts to kill ballot measures that would require that foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be labeled. In November 2013, voters narrowly rejected a ballot initiative in Washington State that would have mandated the labeling of GMOs. The "No on 522" campaigns spent over $22 million on advertising, most of which came from out-of-state mega food corporations.

Most purchasers of organic and natural foods voted for that measure, but they unwittingly contributed to its defeat by buying the foods they enjoy.

Consumers have to be more vigilant that ever, checking not only ingredient panels, but keeping an eye on the ownership of their favorite brands as well. Products you may have bought in the past to support a small business may now be owned by a company with values that are the opposite of yours.

Read more at BLISSTREE.

See a chart of who owns what HERE.

See a Forbes Magazine article about the issue.

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