Does “Big Food” Worry You? Just Wait.

The Lempert Report
April 29, 2016

A new book by Michigan State University’s Phil Howard dissects the troubling trend of food monopolies.

A new book by Michigan State University’s Phil Howard, Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat? dissects the troubling trend of food monopolies and shows how it's happening on all levels of the food chain.  

According to Howard, as reported in,"at almost every key stage of the food system, four firms alone control 40 percent or more of the market, a level above which these companies have the power to drive up prices for consumers and reduce their rate of innovation," he goes on to say "these trends are often hidden from most of us - and even from people who work in these industries - because acquisitions may not result in changes of brand names." 

He offers examples: Walmart rules retailing, owning 33 percent of the U.S. market; AB InBev dominates more than 46 percent of the U.S. beer market; and Monsanto controls 26 percent of the international seed market. In the dairy case, Unilever accounts for more than 51 percent of sales of margarine while ConAgra accounts for nearly 17 percent of all U.S. sales.

"The book covers how corporations influence vulnerable populations, such as recent immigrants, ethnic minorities and people with lower socioeconomic status," Howard said. It identifies dominant corporations and supermarket chains and shows the extent of their control over markets. It also analyses the strategies these firms are using.

The book isn't all doom and dread, however and is geared toward college classrooms and can be bought at Bloomsbury Publishing.  This is a good resource for everyone in the food industry and although Howard points out numerous worrying trends in the food market, he's optimistic regarding our industry’s future.