You can find many different coffee brands on supermarket shelves, and frequently multiple brands are actually owned by one of only a few corporate conglomerates. Some of these companies have poor records when it comes to environmental and social responsibility. Here is a primer on common coffee brand ownership. These brands represent 40 to 60% of the world coffee market. Read about their role in the coffee crisis.
Nestlé – Nescafé, Nespresso, Taster’s Choice, Clasico. Purchases 870,000 tons of coffee annually, over 20% of the market, of which only a tiny fraction of a percent carries eco-certification.
J. M. Smucker Co. — In 2008, Proctor & Gamble (P&G) divested itself of its coffee division, which was taken over by Smucker’s. Smucker’s now owns the Dunkin Donuts retail distribution, as well as the Folgers, Millstone, and Kava coffee brands. In 2011, they acquired Cafe Pilon and Cafe Bustelo. Java Coast was purchased from Sara Lee. Smuckers buys nearly 300,000 tons of coffee annually, with less than 1% being certified. They have a reputation for being resistant to disclosing sustainability efforts.
Kraft Foods — Coffee brands include Yuban, Maxwell House, General Foods International Coffee, Gevalia, Kenco, Maxim, Tassimo, Nabob, and Sanka. Kraft Foods is making an effort to use more Rainforest Alliance certified coffee in some of their brands, mostly in Europe, but it still makes up only a small percentage of their total coffee. In the U.S., make sure to examine the Rainforest Alliance seal on the package — it will tell you how much certified coffee is in the package, and it is often only 30%.
Sara Lee — Senseo, Merrild, Kanis & Gunnink, Cafe Pilao, Cafitesse, Harris, Piazza d’Oro; Douwe Egberts is its coffee subsidiary, under which many of these brands appear. Sara Lee is divesting itself of all North American coffee operations. Much has gone to Smuckers. By 2013 they will have discontinued Senseo sales in North America as well.
Sara Lee is the former owner of Hills Brothers, MJB, Chock Full o’Nuts, and Chase and Sanborn, now all owned by Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA. The latter is a huge privately owned company which sources a lot of its coffee from it’s own massive full sun plantation in Brazil, said to be the largest in the world.