The organic octopus?
Phil Howard's "Organic Industry Structure" chart

By Laura Sayre

Have you seen it?

For larger image click here.

For larger image click here.

No, it's not a sequel to the Meatrix, but it has something of the same visual appeal, and it's gotten a lot of people talking. In late February, at least four workshop presenters at the Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference opened their sessions by putting Phil Howard's "Organic Industry Structure" chart up on the screen. Look, they said. This is what we're up against.

It's a chart that's worth a thousand words. Originally published in the California Certified Organic Farmers' CCOF Magazine (vol. 20, no. 4, Winter 2003-04) as part of an article on consolidation in the food and agriculture industry, it graphs organic brand acquisitions and introductions by 13 of the world's largest food and beverage companies. No doubt you've heard or read about many of these developments already; but the chart's visual power drives home the potential implications for the organic farming community in a way mere prose cannot.

A post-doctoral researcher at the University of California at Santa Cruz's Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems (CASFS), Howard has been obliged to update the chart to keep pace with the rapidly shifting world of corporate organics. In the four months since he first put it together, Dean Foods completed its acquisition of Horizon Organic Dairy, and Groupe Danone increased its share of Stonyfield Farms to 80 percent of all non-employee stock.

Further reading on organic consolidation

The full text of Phil Howard's "Consolidation in Food and Agriculture: Implications for farmers and consumers"
Elizabeth Henderson's keynote presentation from the Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference
RAFI-USA's December 2003 report, Who Owns Organic?