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

Philip H. Howard Abstract: 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, … 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. Beer Industry

Phil Howard and Ginger Ogilvie August, 2011 There is an appearance of great diversity in the number of brands and varieties of beer sold in the United States. The beer industry, however, is dominated by a relatively small number of firms. AB InBev owns, co-owns or distributes more than 36 brands, for example, while MillerCoors controls at least 24 more. MillerCoors also brews Metropoulos & … Continue reading Concentration in the U.S. Beer Industry

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