This week, the Albertsons supermarket chain announced it was buying the Safeway supermarket chain, which would be one of the largest grocery store mergers in 25 years. The combined chains would be the third largest grocery retailer (after Walmart and Kroger) with more than $58 billion in sales from more than 2,400 stores all across the United States. Albertsons operates the Acme, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Starmarket, United Supermarket and Amigo stores as well as the namesake Albertsons stores. Safeway stores include Vons, Pavilions, Tom Thumb and Randalls.
The $9.4 billion merger is being financed by Albertsons’ owner, the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management. You know the company is neighborly because it is named after the mythological three-headed dog that guards the gates of hell. The supermarkets claim the merger is needed to cope with both big box stores like Walmart as well as new grocery delivery companies, including internet grocers. The companies also claim the merger will save consumers money and improve the quality and freshness of the products the stores offer. This seems unlikely. Any cost savings from the merger are more likely to be pocketed by Cerberus than passed onto consumers in the form of lower prices.
The Federal Trade Commission should block this merger. The combined supermarket would operate in more than 100 metropolitan areas and overlap in more than 40 according to a preliminary Food & Water Watch analysis. In some places, the merger will join two of the top local supermarket chains, which means that consumers will have fewer store choices and face rising prices as the supermarket stranglehold tightens further. Read the full article…
Last week, ConAgra Foods, Inc. confessed to its shareholders that it had to delay its proposed wheat flour merger with Cargill because of the ongoing antitrust review by the U.S. Department of Justice. The proposed merger would create a dominant wheat flour milling company that would be twice the size of its next biggest rival, ADM, and more than five times bigger than the third and fourth largest flour milling firms.
The proposed merger (which would create a company called “Ardent Mills”) would have a near stranglehold on buying wheat from farmers and selling flour to bakeries and other food manufacturers. Because Ardent would be so large and have such a heavy footprint across the country, farmers would likely get paid less for their wheat while bakeries would probably pay more for flour, ultimately raising prices for consumers.
Cargill and ConAgra knew this mega-merger would raise eyebrows, so now the companies are talking about selling a few of the flour mills involved in the deal to help make it easier for the Justice Department to swallow a merger resulting in a company that is just too big. ConAgra told its shareholders that the merging companies were “prepared to divest” four flour mills (two in California and one each in Texas and Minnesota). That minor concession just puts lipstick on a pig of a market for wheat and flour that looks a lot like a monopoly in many parts of the country. Read the full article…
Did you see President Obama’s State of the Union last night? While the President had an optimistic tone, again and again, I saw the same theme of giving more power to corporations at the expense of the people.
Last night, President Obama told us once again that he wants to fix income inequality in this country. He even announced a minimum wage increase for government contractors, which is one step in the right direction… but if he’s serious about better pay for ordinary Americans, he shouldn’t be pushing for trade deals that will bolster corporate profits and let corporations move jobs overseas, not to mention taking away communities’ rights to protect themselves from corporate abuses.
When it comes to fracking, President Obama’s State of the Union speech touted his “all of the above” energy plan as a success, even though his administration has repeatedly scuttled investigations into the damaging impacts of fracking, like water contamination. He also said he doesn’t want to leave our children with the impacts of climate change, but fracking hurts communities and it’s not a solution to our energy woes or the climate crisis. Even though President Obama said he wants to protect our pristine public lands, his administration is still considering opening them up to more oil and gas fracking. Send President Obama a clear message: it’s past time that he changed his mind on fracking.
President Obama mentioned the debate over the proper size of our government. We can’t let that debate compromise the safety of our food by cutting funding that the USDA needs to properly inspect our poultry. In the State of the Union, he spoke about his interest in streamlining the government, but he’s doing so at the expense of our health and safety when he lets the meat industry do their own safety inspections. That’s letting the fox guard the henhouse, and it’s no way to keep our food safe.
‘Tis the season for peppermint hot chocolate, warm fuzzy socks and of course, movie marathons. This year, forget driving to the movie theater and overspending on a two-hour flick and what is, most likely, genetically engineered popcorn.
Below is a list of thought-provoking, socially, politically and environmentally conscious films that our staff at Food & Water Watch enjoys and thinks you will, too! Got a movie to add to our list? Share your picks in the comments below.
Gasland and Gasland 2: In this Oscar-nominated documentary, Director Josh Fox takes viewers on a cross-country journey to discover the hard, shocking truths behind the fracking boom that has swept across the United States. Interested in hosting your own Gasland or Gasland 2 screening in the new year? Food & Water Watch can help!
This year has been a whirlwind for me. After finishing my book, Foodopoly, I’ve been spending most of my time on the road, speaking to communities all across the country about the corporate control of our food system. And let me be honest, it’s tiring work.
But whenever it seems like I’m too exhausted to make it on to the next leg, I have a conversation with one of you. You’re the reason I’m doing this work, and I can’t thank you enough for standing with us.
This time of year always gets me thinking about the things that are most important in life — the things that Food & Water Watch is fighting to protect, with your help. Today, we’re thankful for livable communities, clean water and safe, wholesome food — and we believe that these things are for everyone, not just a few. Read the full article…
When I was a kid, I loved Halloween (okay, honestly, I still do). Like most kids, I loved it for the candy, and I always went for the chocolate: Hershey’s bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and so much more.
But for me, the very best candy was from Hebert’s, the local candy shop that’s been in my hometown in Massachusetts for nearly a century. Their “store” is a big old house, which they call the Candy Mansion, and it was packed wall to wall with every sort of candy, all of it homemade. I remember it seeming like Willy Wonka’s factory when I was a kid; it was larger than life.
Sadly, I won’t find Hebert’s candies where I live now. In fact, you have to make a real effort to find any local candy at Halloween. That’s because over 99 percent of Halloween candy is made by just three mega-companies.
That’s right. For all the types of little, individually wrapped chocolates you see on the shelves at Halloween, 99.4 percent of it is made by just three companies: Hershey, Mars, and Nestlé. Those are your only choices — and that really is scary! Read the full article…
The year of the Foodopoly mega-merger churned forward this week when the second-biggest grocery retailer, Kroger, announced it was buying the Harris-Teeter supermarket chain. The $2.5 billion merger is one of the biggest supermarket super-mergers in ten years and will change the landscape for consumers – and not in a good way. Grocery consolidation limits consumer choices – of stores and of food – and often drives up food prices.
Kroger is already a gigantic grocery retailer, second only to Walmart. Kroger grew during the 1990s by snapping up regional grocery store chains and now it has more than 2,400 stores in 160 metropolitan areas. The chains it bought still fly their old corporate flags, so there are Kroger stores as well as Fred Meyer, Ralphs, Food 4 Less, Smith’s, Fry’s, King Soopers and 10 other names.
The purchase of Harris-Teeter would grab an established upscale grocery chain with over 200 stores in the southeastern and Mid-Atlantic region. Loyal shoppers might not notice, because Kroger will maintain the Harris-Teeter name, but some hometown Harris-Teeter consumers are worried that the store quality will deteriorate.
Consolidation in the grocery industry has rapidly accelerated in the past few decades driven by mergers and the growth of Walmart. In the 1990s, the top four chains sold about one out of every five bags of groceries, but today the big four retailers control half the market selling every other bag of groceries. Kroger is the biggest supermarket retailer in 27 cities and ranks second in another 56 cities.
The Ides of March – March 15 – marks the day in 44 B.C. that Julius Caesar was stabbed to death in the Roman Senate. This year in the United States, If Congress and the President reach the First of March without a budget compromise, the state of our economy could become just as bloody and the federal agencies that protect our food and water could be crippled beyond repair.
These severe cuts being threatened are part of a process that Congress invented called “sequestration,” which comes after several years of political show-downs including a committee that was anything but super, an imaginary “fiscal cliff” and deadline after deadline being pushed back. Sequestration was supposed to be the ominous bitter pill that we would never actually need because just the sheer threat of it would force both parties to behave and do their job. But here we are – about 72 hours away from 8 percent across-the-board budget cuts in many departments of the federal government. You don’t need to look much further than the front page of your local newspaper (no matter where you live) to see how these cuts will impact all of us, but particularly the most vulnerable members of society and the middle class. Read the full article…
If I were to ask you to imagine that the frying pan you use to prepare meals was slowly dosing you and your family with radiation, what would you say? Or how about the steel water bottle you use to tote water? It’s not a far cry from reality if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy have their way.
This past December, the DOE released a proposal to recycle an initial 14,000 tons of radioactive metals from nuclear reactors and weapons facilities back into commercial production for consumer goods. If it gets approved, you can bet they’ll dump more of this toxic nightmare into the supply chain.
Sadly, this is nothing new. Since the 1980s, the DOE and the NRC have been cooking up a scheme to recycle radioactive scrap metals back into consumer products. These radioactive metals, which wouldn’t be labeled as such under DOE provisions, could be used to manufacture any of a wide variety of products from metal water bottles to your children’s braces. Read the full article…
Last week, a condensed version of Andy Bellatti’s interview with Wenonah Hauter on her new book Foodopoly ran on Grist: Aisle be damned: How Big Food dominates your supermarket choices. We thought our blog readers would appreciate seeing the entire interview, which goes into the specifics on how fractured our food system really is, how it got that way and what we can do about it.
1. In Foodopoly, you make a very convincing argument that, unlike what many in the “good food” movement think, crop subsidies are not the problem to solve, but rather the symptom of a much larger problem. Can you expand on that concept? Read the full article…
Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainable. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping shared resources under public control.