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Revealed: the ‘small’ brands owned by huge companies

And why they can be shy about who really owns them

You may think you’re surrounded by choice in the supermarket, but the reality is that many brands are owned by just a handful of huge companies, whether it’s Innocent smoothies owned by Coca-Cola or Dorset Cereals owned by Associated British Foods (a food and retail giant).

In fact, for some types of products your options could be completely limited to one company; for example if you’re trying to choose between brands of cat food your money is probably going to Mars and for porridge you’re likely to be handing your cash to Pepsico, which owns both Scott’s Oats and Quaker Oats.

We’ve shown which companies own a selection of famous brands below – click to see the image expanded to show the full range.

Image showing seven brand logos

If you want to find out whether brands do well in our taste tests, then check out our best and worst food and drinks review, to see when it’s best to stick to supermarket own brands.

Why brands can be shy about their parent companies

Sometimes these brands can be coy about who owns them and our research shows this is for good reason. We surveyed Which? members to find out if their views of famous brands change when they discover who really owns them and the results show that people’s perceptions tend to shift for the worse when they find out a brand is owned by a huge corporation.

For instance:

  • 56% said they viewed organic chocolate brand Green & Blacks as ‘environmentally responsible’ but this proportion plummeted to 14% once we revealed its owner is in fact Mondelez International – one of the largest snack food companies in the world.
  • 51% view Innocent more negatively on discovering its parent company is Coco-Cola, with respondents also seeing it as less environmentally and socially responsible.
  • 76% think Seeds of Change (famous for organic pasta sauce) is environmentally responsible, compared with 17% for parent company Mars.

You can read our full investigation into who owns who in the December issue of Which? magazine. If you’re not already a Which? member, you can sign up to Which? to receive the magazine and get full access to our website.

Small brands and big owners

Small brands can benefit from big corporate owners by expanding their reach. But this can also create an illusion of choice, whereby you think you’re choosing between brands but in fact all your money is going to the same handful of companies.

If you want to avoid particular companies, there’s little alternative to trawling through companies’ terms and conditions to find out their parentage or looking at small print on packs.

More on this…

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