Indie That Isn't: You'll Be Shocked by Who's Behind These 7 Brands

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Betty CrockerIn 1945, she was voted the second most famous American woman after Eleanor Roosevelt. Her name: Betty Crocker. But she didn't really exist at all.

Betty Crocker was not a real-life happy homemaker, but a fabricated character, brought to you by consumer product giant General Mills (GIS). General Mills chose the name Betty because it sounded friendly -- worthy of being a "BFF" in the kitchen.

They were right. Betty was a hit.

Clearly, there's more (or maybe less) to many brands than meets the eye. After all, if you're a big, faceless conglomerate, there's nothing like a friendly face or image to call out to consumers as they're strolling through store aisles.

Betty Crocker

Even in this era of skepticism, Google-ability, and general mistrust of big corporations, you may be surprised to learn that many of the seemingly homespun, small-time brands found on store shelves were either invented or gobbled up by big, well-known corporations.

Indie cred, indeed. Here are some brands that give off a sense of smallness, independence, familiarity -- as much of a sense of individuality as corporate logos can muster.

See our gallery on Who's Behind These 7 Brands here.

8 PHOTOS
The Shocking Truth About These "Indie" Brands
See Gallery
Indie That Isn't: You'll Be Shocked by Who's Behind These 7 Brands

Organic brands Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen may make you think "small." Don't they both sound kind of pastoral, the sort of products that might come from family farms? Think again: Both brands are owned by food giant General Mills (move over, Betty).

Vans footwear calls forth images of rebellious skater youth, not to mention some musical credibility, given its frequent sponsorship of the annual Warped Tour. However, it may lose a few counterculture points given it's owned by brand giant VF Corporation (VFC), which also owns Timberland, SmartWool, 7 for All Mankind, Lee, and Wrangler, to name just a few.

In Maine circa 1970, a guy named Tom and his partner Kate dreamed up a whole slew of natural products for folks who, like them, yearned to simplify their lives. Certainly some of Tom's customers really wanted to stick it to The Man and all his chemical-laden merchandise, too. In 2006, consumer giant Colgate-Palmolive (CL) acquired Tom's of Maine. But let's face it: Tom's of Colgate-Palmolive just doesn't have the same ring.

Trader Joe's products always give a mysterious, boutique sort of feel, like some remarkable merchant named Joe has gone all over the world picking out exotic goods to stock the shelves. It's a nice thought, but in 2010 Fortune magazine revealed that some of Trader Joe's store brands are actually made by big companies like PepsiCo's (PEP) Frito-Lay. Incidentally, Trader Joe's is owned by Germany's Albrecht family, which also owns the Aldi Sud global supermarket chain. (U.S. Aldi supermarkets are owned by a different part of the same family.)

Morningstar Farms may sound like it should be just up a country road from Cascadian Farm, but the veggie-burger maker is owned by Kellogg (K). Who knows if Tony the Tiger participates in "Meatless Mondays" after a hearty breakfast of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes? Meanwhile, Kashi might make a lot of people want to don their tie-dyes and grab handfuls of granola, but it also happens to be a Kellogg subsidiary.

The fact that many brands boast counter-cultural appeal but are actually parts of huge conglomerates isn't necessarily awful. For example, Kashi says it's still run independently in La Jolla, Calif., according to its original business philosophy. In fact, it says its mission expanded in 2000 "with a little help from a friend." (Kellogg's one heck of a big friend, that's for sure.)

Likewise, Tom's of Maine still claims to be holding true to its original all-natural mission, despite Colgate-Palmolive's involvement. On the Tom's website, it claims, "Our simple, direct approach hasn't changed one bit: we listen to what our customers want (and don't want) in their products, we learn how it can be done, and we respond with effective natural (and sustainable) solutions."

Still, from the consumer viewpoint, it's always good to know a little bit more about what you're purchasing -- and putting in or on your body -- and from whom. Your dollars equal support, after all. Betty Crocker never had a choice as to which products she'd purchase (she was obviously a General Mills gal all the way!), but American shoppers do.

of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION


Buyer, Be Aware

The fact that many brands boast counter-cultural appeal but are actually parts of huge conglomerates isn't necessarily awful. For example, Kashi says it's still run independently in La Jolla, Calif., according to its original business philosophy. In fact, it says its mission expanded in 2000 "with a little help from a friend." (Kellogg's one heck of a big friend, that's for sure.)

Sponsored Links
Likewise, Tom's of Maine still claims to be holding true to its original all-natural mission, despite Colgate-Palmolive's involvement. On the Tom's website, it claims, "Our simple, direct approach hasn't changed one bit: we listen to what our customers want (and don't want) in their products, we learn how it can be done, and we respond with effective natural (and sustainable) solutions."

Still, from the consumer viewpoint, it's always good to know a little bit more about what you're purchasing -- and putting in or on your body -- and from whom. Your dollars equal support, after all. Betty Crocker never had a choice as to which products she'd purchase (she was obviously a General Mills gal all the way!), but American shoppers do.

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of PepsiCo. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of PepsiCo. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a diagonal call position in PepsiCo.


Read Full Story

People are Reading