New Internationalist

The Facts

Issue 135

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THE FOOD INDUSTRY [image, unknown] Fair food - the facts

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The FACTS

Food Fair Checkout

[image, unknown] Food and beverage processing employs one eighth of the world’s industrial labour force to produce seven hundred billion dollar’s worth of goods - one fifth of the world’s entire manufacturing output. That’s a lot of economic muscle, all competing for space inside those finite 1.1 kilogram containers we call our stomachs. With markets literally reaching satiation point in the West, the multinational food industry is under pressure to cut costs, increase profits and find new consumers. The result is a plethora of ever-more processed products and a move towards producing in and selling to the developing world.

International taste!

Rich world consumers are still the main customers and employees of the multinational food giants. But low salaries and a growing percentage of middle-class consumers in developing countries means corporations are beginning to turn their attention to the Third World.

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Added value!

The easiest way to make money from food is to take a cheap product, process it by inexpensive means, then sell it - transformed - at a vast profit.

product price per kg
fresh potatoes $0.63
powdered potato (when reconstituted) $0.99
oven-ready chips $1.08
crisps $6.60
potato swirls $7.20

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More for your money!

Since 1940 more and more of the food we eat is processed in some way. The average food store offered just 1,500 items for sale in 1950. By 1980 that number had increased to over 15,000.

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New recipes!

With food processing concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, it becomes necessary to preserve it while it is stored and transported to consumers around the world. And, with one kg of synthetic tomato flavouring replacing, at much less cost, 400 kg of actual tomatoes, additives have an important place in any processing recipe.

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Sugar delight!

Sugar is used as a ‘bulking agent’ in much processed food. It’s cheap, it holds water (also cheap), it doesn’t fill you up so it leaves you hungry for more. Tomato ketchup is 23% sugar; Frosties breakfast cereal is 44% sugar; icecream is 23% sugar.

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Consumption of white sugar in 1980
Country kg per
person
Country kg per
person
CHINA 1.01 USA 37.72
INDIA 4.05 CANADA 39.01
NIGERIA 6.90 UK 40.10
JAPAN 23.46 NEW ZEALAND 46.64
ARGENTINA 33.86 AUSTRALIA 49.31

Source: British Sugar Bureau


Top 60 World-beaters

     
TOTAL
REVENUE 1976
  FOOD AND DRINK
MANUFACTURERS
Food
Processing
Revenue

($US million)
Amount
($US million)
Proportion
Foreign
(%)
1. Unilever Ltd (NLD/UK)
7,900.0
14,800.0
71.0
2. Nestle Alimentana SA (CHE)
6,247.8
7,247.8
95.0
3. Kraft Inc (USA)
4,775.8
4,977.0
15.1
4. General Foods Corp (USA)
4,401.6
4,910.0
25.8
5. Esmark Inc (USA)
3,955.2
5,300.6
16.0
6. Beatrice Foods Co (USA)
3,943.0
5,289.0
21.2
7. Coca-Cola Co Inc (USA)
2,911.5
3,032.8
44.0
8. Greyhound Corn (USA)
2,384.9
3,738.1
n.a.
9. Ralston Purina Co (USA)
2,365.5
3,393.8
24.4
10. Border Inc (USA)
2,336.3
3,381.1
16.0
11. United Brands Co (USA)
2,130.4
2,276.6
25.6
12. Iowa Beef Processors Inc (USA)
2,077.2
2,077.2
0.0
13. Imperial Group Ltd (UK)
2,070.5
5,789.9
11.7
14. Archer-Daniels-Mid.Co (USA)
2,065.5
2,118.5
26.7
15. Pepsico Inc (USA)
2.051 .2
2,727.6
20.8
16. Associated British Foods (UK)
2,050.5
3,011 .9
n.a.
17. Carnation Co (USA)
2,004.5
2,167.0
15.3
18. CPC International Inc (USA)
1,968.1
2,696.0
54.7
19. LTV Corp (USA)
1,919.4
4,496.9
n.a.
20. Heinz H J Co (USA)
1,882.0
1,882.0
40.7
21. Seagram Co Ltd The (CAN)
1,873.7
2,048.8
94.0
22. Banks Hovis McDougall Ltd (UK)
11,801.1
1,860.6
13.0
23. Proctor & Gamble Co (USA)
1,800.5
7,349.0
25.0
24. Nabisco Inc (USA)
1,780.2
2,027.3
29.0
25. General Mills (USA)
1,734.7
2,909.4
16.3
26. Grand Metropolitan (UK)
1,704.1
2,974.0
n.a.
27. Unigate Ltd (UK)
1,640.4
1,743.4
10.0
28. Campbell Soup Co (USA)
1,590.9
1,635.0
11.0
29. Cadbury Schweppes Ltd (UK)
1,522.6
1,589.9
40.0
30. Associated Milk Producers (USA)
1,500.0
1,623.0
0.0
31. Mars Inc (USA)
1,500.0
1,500.0
60.0
32. BSN-Gervais Danone SA (FRA)
1,444.8
2,641.3
41.0
33. Allied Breweries Ltd (UK)
1,430.3
1,787.9
15.0
34. Anderson Clayton (USA)
1,425.0
1,557.0
n.a.
35. ITT (USA)
1,422.0
11,764.0
49.0
36. Standard Brands Inc (USA)
1,411.8
11,810.0
33.0
37. Cargill Inc (USA)
1,400.0
10,800.0
n.a.
38. Kellogg Co (USA)
1,385.5
1,385.5
20.3
39. Canada Packers Ltd (CAN)
1,382.5
1,634.9
14.6
40. Anheuser-Busch Inc (USA)
1,357.4
1,441 .0
0.0
41. Central Soya Co Inc (USA)
1,348.6
1,839.9
11.1
42. Mitsui & Co Ltd (JPN)
1,320.6
1 2,993.3
n.a.
43. Heublein Inc (USA)
1,291.2
1,550.9
14.5
44. Union International Co (UK)
1,274.3
1,592.9
n.a.
45. Del Monte Corp (USA)
1,270.9
1,483.8
27.4
46. Suntory (JPN)
1,200.0
1,376.5
n.a.
47. Spilters Ltd (UK)
1,189.9
1,254.5
7.0
48. Norton Simon Inc (USA)
1,159.6
1,807.7
16.7
49. Consolidated Foods Corp (USA)
1,154.4
2,754.9
13.0
50. Lyons J & Co Ltd (UK)
1,147.5
1,466.7
57.0
51. Brooke Bond Liebig Ltd (UK)
1,119.4
19193.9
61.0
52. Snow Brand Milk Products (JPN)
1,101 .6
1,324.7
n.a.
53. Hormel Geo A & Co (USA)
1,094.8
1,094.8
2.1
54. Oscar Mater & Co Inc (USA)
1,087.8
1,133.1
n.a.
55. Quaker Oats Co (USA)
1,070.2
1,551 .3
29.5
56. Amstar Corp (USA)
1,034.0
1,118.5
n.a.
57. Land OLakes (USA)
1,022.2
1,241.6
0.0
58. United Biscuits Holdings (UK)
1,012.1
1,053.0
n.a.
59. Bass Charrington (UK)
1,010.1
1,619.6
n.a.
60. Tate & Lyle Ltd (UK)
1,005.5
5,169.1
35.0

Source: United Nations Centre for Transnational Corporations, 1981


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