Monday, October 27, 2008

I support local businesses (which support large corporations)!

Once upon a time I worked in a hippie mart called Roots. At the time it was very much a small, local business and I worked for peanuts because I really believed in it. It, like many other similar businesses, has changed as it has become more and more popular, but a lot of the changes go on behind the scenes.

I could probably go on and on about different things that would make people who care about local business, sustainable farming, and friendly food (what? ok) want to throw their hands in the air, but I'll stick to today's curiosity. I was really pleased to see that the BYU bookstore recently started carrying Equal Exchange chocolate again. Although I personally prefer the taste and variety of Seeds of Change (which, as it turns out, is owned by M&M/Mars), Equal Exchange is a close second in taste. I was thinking to myself how sad/funny/unnerving it would be if this company, which is reportedly all about fair trade, cooperatives, etc. was owned by Kraft or some such. So I went looking for the ownership diagrams I'd seen at back at Roots. I think it's fascinating to see who owns what.

Hurrah for Equal Exchange! A worker-owned cooperative!

On that note, remember Odwalla? "At Odwalla, we blend the best ingredients from nature with the latest learning in nutrition to create products bursting with living flavor that nourish your body, mind and spirit. Our mission today is the same as it's been for more than 25 years: nourish People everywhere, respect our Planet, protect the Soil with sustainable practicies, and create products good for the Soul." Oh, really? So, let's see... Odwalla, according to the bottle, is owned by odwalla, but let's check our diagrams (I even called them just to double-check):

Owned by Coca-Cola! Boo, Odwalla! Now, contrary to Stuff White People Like, I actually have a reason for disliking Coca-Cola besides the fact that it is a huge corporation that is not Ikea. This would be the fact that there have been murders at factories where unions were being organized. Hairy? Yes.

I guess my point in blogging about this is twofold:
1. It is interesting. What would happen if one of the large conglomerate food companies collapsed? Mass hysteria? Don't think it could happen? Fanny and Freddie Mae? Anyone?
2. Maybe those of us who care who we support should do a little more research? Just an idea. It's more work but only barely and it's worth it.

Happy eating!


Lesshalynn said...

science is so cool.

Rodney North said...

I'm one of the 90 worker-owners at Equal Exchange and we really appreciate that you noticed that we're not just another corporation. Unfortunately not many bother to pay as close attention as you.

Unlike Dagoba (owned by Hersheys) or Green & Black (owned by Cadbury) or Tazo (owned by Starbucks) etc etc Equal Exchange is owned and governed democratically by we, the employees.

Here you can read more about our co-op.

And here you can learn about our democratic worker co-op model.

phyllis said...

I LOVED your post. It was very refreshing and affirming to read your views. Many of us here at Equal Exchange had the same kind of visceral reactions to Phil Howard's Organic Industry Consolidation charts that you write about. Makes you wonder how many folks - who generally care about our food system, social justice, democracy, and the environment - have no idea that the products they're carefully choosing are not entirely what they seem at first glance...

Phil Howard's work resonated so strongly with us that we invited him to spend a few days with our staff this past June and to speak about his research at our annual retreat. I must say the discussions were lively and productive - and have led us to all sorts of new thinking about our education/campaign work.

Anyway, if you, or any of your readers, are interested, you can read an interview we conducted with Prof. Howard and another post about some ways we're applying his research to our work with food co-operatives.

It's at:

Thanks again! I'll be interested to read more of your posts.

Phyllis Robinson
Education and Campaigns Manager
Equal Exchange