Craftwashing in the U.S. Beer Industry

Summary: Big brewers, which have experienced declining sales for their beer brands in the last decade, have been accused of “craftwashing” by some craft brewers and their aficionados—they define craftwashing as big brewers (>6 million barrels per year) taking advantage of the increasing sales of craft beer by emulating these products or by acquiring craft breweries, while also obscuring their ownership from consumers. To estimate … Continue reading Craftwashing in the U.S. Beer Industry

Power, Food and Agriculture

One of the most pressing concerns about the industrialization of agriculture and food is the consolidation and concentration of markets for agricultural inputs, agricultural commodities food processing and groceries. In essence a small minority of actors globally exercise great control over food system decisions. This means that because of increased consolidation of these markets globally – from the United States to China to Brazil, from South Africa to the United Kingdom – the vast majority of farmers, consumers and communities are left out of key decisions about how we farm and what we eat. Continue reading Power, Food and Agriculture

Decoding Diversity in the Food System: Wheat and Bread in North America

Diversity is important for the resilience of food systems, as well as for its own sake. Just how diverse are the systems that produce our food? I explore this question with a focus on wheat and bread and North America, and even more specifically in baking, milling and farming. Although the opacity of food and agricultural systems makes definitive answers difficult, these segments appear to be increasingly uniform with respect to ownership, geography, varieties and genes. There are also important countertrends, and while efforts to resist uniformity are currently small, they are making some progress in maintaining or even increasing diversity in some areas. Continue reading Decoding Diversity in the Food System: Wheat and Bread in North America

The illusion of diversity: visualizing ownership in the soft drink industry

Three firms control 89% of US soft drink sales. This dominance is obscured from us by the appearance of numerous choices on retailer shelves. Steve Hannaford refers to this as “pseudovariety,” or the illusion of diversity, concealing a lack of real choice. To visualize the extent of pseudovariety in this industry we developed a cluster diagram to represent the number of soft drink brands and varieties found in the refrigerator cases of 94 Michigan retailers, along with their ownership and/or licensing connections. Continue reading The illusion of diversity: visualizing ownership in the soft drink industry

Seed Industry Structure

Consolidation has increased in the international seed industry in recent decades. This chart depicts changes in ownership involving major seed companies and their subsidiaries, primarily occurring from 1996 to 2013.1 The largest firms are represented as circles, with size proportional to global commercial seed market share.2 For an article providing more detail on these graphics see: Howard, Philip H. 2009. Visualizing Consolidation in the Global … Continue reading Seed Industry Structure

Concentration in the U.S. Wine Industry

No other section of the supermarket offers as many choices as the wine aisle. A typical retailer is likely to have hundreds of unique wines on its shelves. Just three firms, however, account for more than half of the wine sales in the United States. What impact does this industry concentration have on consumer choices? To answer this question we conducted an inventory of wine offerings at 20 retailers in Michigan. We recorded more than 3,600 unique varieties of wine, and traced their relationships with more than 1,000 different firms. Continue reading Concentration in the U.S. Wine Industry

Latest Book

Howard, Philip H. Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat? London: Bloomsbury Academic (February 25, 2016). Nearly every day brings news of another merger or acquisition involving the companies that control our food supply. Just how concentrated has this system become? At almost every key stage of the food system, four firms alone control 40% or more of the market, a … Continue reading Latest Book

Visualizing Fair Trade Coffee

The fair trade certification has entered a period of major change. The recent departure of Fair Trade USA from the international certification system led by Fair Trade International (formerly FLO), and its decision to develop separate US standards that permit certification of plantation-produced coffee, cocoa, and other crops, has thrown the meaning of the US fair trade label into question. Continue reading Visualizing Fair Trade Coffee