People want to know who owns the ethical brands they’re buying. But big brands like PepsiCo and Unilever seem reluctant to say that they own smaller ethical names, so we unwrapped the brands to find out the truth.
Green and Black’s and Kraft go together like chalk and cheese, or, indeed, organic chocolate and processed cheese triangles. Yet Kraft owns Green and Black’s.
Once I knew this, I couldn’t help but feel differently about Green and Black’s – it wasn’t quite the company I’d thought it was. And what plans did its owner have in mind for its ingredients?
I know I’m not alone. Large multinationals have been busy buying up small, ethical food and drink companies to get a piece of this multi-billion pound market. Yet they don’t seem terribly keen to tell consumers about their ownership. But consumers – understandably – want to know.
Who owns what – and why no-one else is telling you
We recently polled more than 2,000 Which? members, and three-quarters felt companies should state their owner on product packaging. But few companies do.
For our investigation we looked at the packaging of 10 ethical brands – including Green and Black’s, Copella apple juice, Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, Seeds of Change chocolate and Rachel’s Organics dairy products. All are owned by large companies of the likes of PepsiCo and Unilever. Hardly any displayed the owner’s name.
So it wasn’t a surprise that the people in our survey knew the ownership of around one in ten of the brands (you can check your knowledge of which brands own what in the quiz, left).
And once we told them the owners, many felt tricked. One said: ‘I thought this was a nice little business, created by a woman of principle… now I feel cheated.’
If you buy foods thinking you’re supporting a ‘nice little business’, rather than giants like Kraft, PepsiCo, Coca Cola and so on, then you’ll want to read our investigation. Or maybe you think the owner is irrelevant?