You Don't Really Have Choices When Shopping For Food

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Big_Food_InfographicIllustrated By Ly Ngo.
A casual stroll through the grocery store presents consumers with an overwhelming number of options. Countless brands selling every conceivable type of yogurt/juice/potato chip/pasta sauce/beer/bean-and-cheese burrito imaginable bombard the bewildered shopper, creating a fantastical utopian illusion of pure, capitalist freedom of choice. In reality, though, we have fewer choices than we think — at least in terms of where our money goes. Most of the food we buy is made by just a handful of massive, multinational conglomerates.

It probably doesn't come as much of a surprise that most food categories in this country — from beer to soft drinks to chocolate — are dominated by a few huge corporations. But, the same companies also tend to reign across categories, and have a ubiquitous presence in almost every aisle in the grocery. PepsiCo, for example, controls a huge share of not just the soda market, but also cereals (Cap'n Crunch, Quaker), chips (Lays, Pringles, Doritos), and snacks (Smartfood Popcorn, Cracker Jacks).

Of course, we're not denying there's a huge variety of foods in the supermarket. But, especially when encountering products that are labeled "natural," "sustainable," or "fair trade," it's important to consider the companies that are behind these marketing moves. Something that's packaged as small-batch, "humane," or with some other buzzy selling point might still be produced by the same company that makes those icky, ultra-processed potato chips.

Take a look at the infographic below to see where your money's really going — and how few choices you actually have.

illusion-of-choiceIllustration: Courtesy Of Finances Online.