At one time, there was nothing more American than sipping on an ice cold Bud or biting into a Whopper burger. But those days are gone.
Times have changed and some of America’s most famous brands have fallen into foreign hands.
We put together a list of the most surprising and popular consumer companies that are no longer able to truly call themselves American.
Take a look below:
Current owner: Anheuser-Busch InBev, Belgian brewers
Don’t be fooled by Budweiser’s re-brand.
The cans may say “America” on them, but this beer is now owned by a Belgian company.
The history of Budweiser dates back to the 1850s when a German, Adolphus Busch, moved to St. Louis and married the daughter of a local brewer, Eberhard Anheuser. The two became partners, but Busch eventually took over the business and created the light, crisp lager we have today and his brewery became the nation’s largest producer.
In 2008, the company was sold to Belgium beer conglomerate InBev for $52 billion.
Ben & Jerrys
Current owner: Unilever, Dutch-British consumer goods company
America’s iconic ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s was started by best friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield after they purchased an old gas station and turned it into a scoop shop in 1978.
In 2000, the brand was bought by multinational consumer goods company Unilever, for $326 million.
Current owner: Restaurant Brands International, Canadian fast food company
In 1954 James McLamore and David Edgerton opened a small hamburger shop called “Insta Burger King” in Miami, selling 18-cent hamburgers and milkshakes. Three years later, they dropped the “Insta,” added a gas grill, and created the signature “Whopper” burger.
In 1967, the duo sold the chain to the Pillsbury Company and it became the second-largest burger chain in the US after McDonald’s. In the decades that followed, the chain changed hands several times after a series of mergers and acquisitions with its parent company, before going public in 2006. In 2010 it was sold to private equity firm 3G Capital and went back to being privately owned.
Today, it’s part of Restaurant Brands International, a Canadian fast food company that was formed when Burger King merged with Canadian coffee and donuts chain, Tim Horton’s. It is still backed by 3G Capital.
Current owner: Aldi Nord, German discount supermarket chain
Trader Joe’s dates back to 1967 when California-based convenience store owner Joe Coulombe decided to start stocking obscure and discontinued foods in order to give himself an edge over impending competition from 7-Eleven.
The first Trader Joe’s store is still open in California but the business has since changed hands. It was bought by Theo Albrecht, the owner of German supermarket brand Aldi Nord, in 1979.
Current owner: British American Tobacco company, a British tobacco company
Lucky Strike, once America’s top-selling cigarette brand, was established in 1871 in Virginiaand subsequently taken over by a large American tobacco company.
It fell into the hands of the Brits in the ’70s when the British American Tobacco company bought its former owner.
General Electric (appliances)
Current owner: Haier, Chinese consumer and electronics company
General Electric appliances have been a staple for US consumers for over a century, made special by their “Made in America” logo.
But this may change. In 2016, the brand was bought by the world’s biggest appliance company, Haier, a Chinese company, for $5.4 billion.
Current owner: Gildan Activewear, Canadian clothing company
California brand American Apparel made a name for itself with its “Made in USA — Sweatshop Free,” slogan, and claimed that it was the largest clothing manufacturer in North America. This business model worked for two decades, but in 2015 the company filed for bankruptcy and spent two years trying to recover.
It didn’t work, and in 2017, Canadian clothing company Gildan bought the intellectual property rights and some of its manufacturing equipment for $88 million.
Current owner: Reckitt Benckiser, British consumer goods company
French’s mustard made its cameo appearance at the St. Louis World’s Fair, when the two sons of its founder, R.T. French, dished out the new mustard with hot dogs. It didn’t take long for the company to be bought; in 1926 it was acquired by a UK company.
Today, it’s owned by Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc, who also own other major brands such as Durex condoms and Strepsils.
Current owner: Seven & i Holdings, Japanese retail group
We have Jefferson Green to thank for convenience stores. Green was a Southland Ice Company employee in 1927 when he started selling milk, bread, and eggs from the ice house on Sundays and holidays when everything else was closed, according to the 7-Eleven company website. He renamed his store 7-Eleven to reflect the store’s opening hours from 7am to 11pm. This laid the foundations of the all-hours stores that we have today.
After the financial crash in 1987, the company was bought by Ito-Yokado, part of Seven & I Holdings, the Japanese parent company of the store today.
Current owner: Luxottica Group, Italian eyewear company
Sunglass Hut has its roots in Miami where Optometrist Sanford Ziff set up a kiosk in a mall in the city in 1971. By 1986 he had opened his 100th store. The Ziff family sold their share of the business in 1991.
Today, it is owned by Italian eyewear company Luxottica, who bought the chain for $462 million in 2001.
Current owner: InterContinental Hotels, British hotel company
The first Holiday Inn hotel was opened by businessman Kemmons Wilson in Memphis, Tennessee. Wilson came up with the idea while on a family trip to Washington D.C. after he found there were no comfortable and affordable places for families to stay. His business was taken over InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) between 1988 and 1990, and IHG has stayed its parent company ever since.
Current owner: Unilever, Dutch-British consumer goods company
The French may have been the first to invent mayonnaise but Hellman’s is responsible for making it a staple condiment in most American kitchens. German immigrant Richard Hellmann opened up a delicatessen in New York City in 1905 and found that his homemade condiment was so popular that he started to sell it separately.
In 1932, the company was acquired by Best Foods, another mayonnaise seller on the west coast. In 2000, Best Foods was bought by consumer goods conglomerate Unilever for $20.3 billion. To this day, the two brands operate separately. Hellmann’s Mayonnaise is sold east of the Rockies and Best Foods Mayonnaise is sold west.
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