Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Overheard at Trader Joe’s

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Mother to Mother:  “I will only give Danielle the organic Kashi cereal now.   I’m not supporting the Frosted Flakes-Cocoa Puffs industry anymore.    It’s time we were heard!”

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You have been heard.  Greedy sugary cereal producer of Frosted Flakes and Cocoa Puffs, Kellogg’s, OWNS Kashi (but you’ll never see it mentioned anywhere on the box or website).

Update:  From last year’s New York Times:

Conventional cereal makers have been looking for ways to jump-start sales in a category that has been flat since 1995. In 2003 total cereal sales, excluding Wal-Mart, were $6.99 billion. In 2005 they were $6.89 billion but alternative cereal companies continue to expand. In 2005, sales of alternative cereals (excluding sales at Wal-Mart) were $361 million, up from $273.5 million in 2003, a 32 percent increase, according to Spins research.

Many of the alternative cereal brands are owned by larger companies, including Kellogg and General Mills. “Cereals, like milk, are one of the primary entrance points for use of organics,” said Ms. Christenson of Spins, “which is pretty closely tied to children – health concerns, keeping pesticides, especially antibiotics, out of the diets of children. These large firms wanted to get a foothold in the natural and organic marketplace. Because of the mindset of consumers, branding of these products has to be very different than traditional cereals.”

These corporate connections are often kept quiet.

“There is frequently a backlash when a big cereal package goods company buys a natural or organic company,” Ms. Christenson said. “I don’t want to say it’s manipulative, but consumers are led to believe these brands are pure, natural or organic brands. It’s very purposely done.”

General Mills owns Cascadian Farm, and the name behind Kashi is Kellogg. Barbara’s Bakery is owned by Weetabix, the leading British cereal company, which is owned by a private investment firm there. Mother’s makes clear that it is owned by Quaker Oats (which is owned by PepsiCo). Health Valley and Arrowhead Mills are owned by a natural food company traded on the Nasdaq, Hain Celestial Group; H. J. Heinz owns 16 percent of that company.

The cereals sold under the Peace label are owned by Golden Temple, a for-profit company owned by a nonprofit group founded by the late Yogi Bhajan, who made his fortune from Yogi Tea, Kettle Chips and a company that provides security services.

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38 Comments

  1. Ha. Didn’t know that. Someday there will be McKellogTimeWarner.

  2. mothers are the only pretentious people out there – throw an ex-boyfriend or two into that pile for me!

  3. I’m disappointed. They really own Kashi? Yea It is pretty easy for us Mom’s to be overly zealous, pretentious, and especially magniloquent over our babies.

  4. This happens all the time, and people just don’t realize it. People who buy Kraft cheese are supporting cigarettes, for example, because they’re owned by Philp Morris (who makes Marlboros, among others). Big Money owns everything.

  5. I love the “Good Friends” cereal thing.

  6. That is hilarious!

    Those kind of bitchy, pretentious mothers have been around and will be FOREVER! Oh, yes, they love their child/ren MUCH more than you could ever love yours. NOT!

  7. Figures. Serves them right for not doing their research.

  8. Oh I love it! How about checking facts before spewing, ladyyyy?

    *snort*

  9. If I want to eat twigs and cardboard for breakfast, I won’t pay the $3.00 mark-up on a box of Kashi.

  10. By the way, I am eating Kashi right now, and it is pretty good, but I’m not sure how much “better” they are for you than Cheerios… but at least I know no whales were injured in the production of the cereal…

  11. Growing up my mom only bought oatmeal, cream-o-wheat and those non sugar cereal. We used the puffed rice cereal as footballs for the quarterback when we played football on those old vibrating football fields.

    I buy the boy all the sugary stuff they want and one of my favorites is good old Frosted Flakes, I consider the ones with 1/3 the sugar as healthy.

  12. This is one of those posts that could be greatly expanded. Do some more interviews and/or research, and report back to us on who-owns-what. For instance, think of the vast number of companies owned by Coca-Cola. (Dasani water included. That’s off my list, but I’m sure I’m consuming C-C products in some other way.) Assignment: pick a mega-company with the theoretical assumption of boycott, and find the list of subsidiary or related products you’d be obligated to avoid. It’d be nice if we could live like Thoreau or be subsistence farmers and just barter!

  13. Trader Joes is easily one of my favorite stores. Give me Costco and Home Depot and I am a happy dad.

  14. Dana, my theory is that when a brand starts doing a lot of advertising, especially on TV that means that theyw ere bought out by someone. How else could they afford to pay for the ads? I used to drink POM pomengranate juice and then out of nowhere they started advertising on billboards, etc. I instantly knew that some big company saw the “pomegranate” craze and must have bought them out.

    I have nothing against Kellogg’s or Kashi. I just think that they both know their demographics well enough to keep their relationship VERY quiet. You will not see the mention of Kellogg’s anywhere on the Kashi page or product. At least Dasani and Minute Maid say they are owned by Coca-Cola.

    Surprisingly, if you go to the British website, they actually write Kellogg’s name on the Kashi cereal, meaning there is less stigma to the company maybe?

  15. Soon the whole world will be owned by AT&T and Microsoft anyway, so why worry?

    Hey stranger! How goes things?

  16. I’ve always loved Trader Joe’s, but I recently noticed the organic broccoli and spinach I buy is a product of China. Kind of made me wonder how they certify it…

  17. best part of cocoa puffs is eating them and having that chocolately milk to drink afterwards, when my kids were younger, it was a staple in our home! does that make me a bad mother, or a popular one in our home?

  18. I figure if eating Cocoa Puffs is going to kill me, at least I’ll die happy!! I can’t understand why anyone in their right mind would want to eat shredded wheat or Kashi. Why not eat bowl of shredded cardboard or grass clippings? Same taste and consistency. Give me a bowl of sugar sweetened, high fructose corn syrup charged cocoa puffs any day and consequences be damned!!

  19. Love Trader Joes…I was never allowed to have sugar cereal as a kid so it’s no wonder I go for the coco puffs now and then……….

  20. Since we were short on money, we always got the generic versions of cereal that came in large plastic bags when we were growing up. Carl’s Frosted Flakers, Cocoa Roos, Frosted Mini Spooners, Marshmallow Maties and Tootie Fruities. I’ll bet you can figure out what they were imitations of from the real cereal shelves.

  21. The people on the Good Friends boxes always look way too excited about fiber.

  22. My brother works for the natural foods division at Kraft, so I knew some of this already.

  23. I wonder why people are upset about the connection…seems like they’d be happy that the big guys are giving them options. You know, kinda like McD’s offering salads and whatnot.

  24. well done, neil!
    (that said, I really miss kashi)

  25. Ugh. Not surprising, but depressing nonetheless. I work for a huge consumer products company and what people also don’t always realize is that some seemingly “competitve” brands are often owned by the same company.
    BTW, Kraft is no longer owned by Altria (Philip Morris…they even got smart and changed their name), so you can eat their “cheese food” in good conscience. I still won’t touch the crap. 😉

  26. It is a cereal conspiracy.

  27. Kashi makes me gag. I have a box of Golden Grahams and a box of Captain Crunch in my cupboard…along with frosted mini wheats. Granted, they last us about two months because we only have it as a treat, but still…

  28. I am a Cherrios, Product 19 and cream of wheat kind of girl. BTW, I eat my cereal dry and drink milk from a glass. I also do not like sugar on my cereal but a dash on a grapefruit is yummy.

  29. Degrees of separation, you know? . . . if you trace far enough, there’s ‘evil’ in all the products we buy, like Nestle.

  30. DON’T get me started on Nestle’ and infant formula. Evil incarnate.

  31. Thanks for ruining my weekend and breakfast cereal — shit, I felt SO good about my Kashi Heart to Heart. Now I just feel betrayed. Humph. JP

  32. Do we really want to take nutritional advice from an emaciated (or dead)yogi? I mean, do you know what they do with a long piece of cloth when they want to purify their stomach? But what I’m really wondering is how a non-profit can own a for-profit. If the for-profit’s profits are funneled up to the non-profit, and the lawmakers would look at ethics and not profits themselves, the non-profit is making a profit. Cool for-profit tax shelter for the non-profit.

  33. ::Hands over ears:: I CAN’T hear you. 🙂 I’d like to stay oblivious, thanks.

    By the way I’m one of your latest Twitter add ons… otherwise known as…. well you know the rest ;). Cheers.

  34. Yep–well it does seem that to avoid total corporate cereal you either have to eat bulk oats (which we do because we are cheap) or collect the twigs and sticks in your own back yard…. Have you looked at Organic Inc.?

  35. Since there wer some praise for Trader Joes, I thought I’d throw out that they are owned by Aldi’s – that’s right when you buy at Trader Joe’s you’re likely getting old overstock like the stuff in Aldi’s. Kind of scarry with organic and minimally preserved stuff.

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