Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

Moral Abbreviations

There’s a certain attitude of moral superiority that I have encountered from some in their shopping decisions. I may have been guilty of this attitude, as well, on occasion. Recently, I discovered a few surprises at the big companies pulling the strings behind some of the supposedly morally superior brands, and one thing led to another. Before proceeding, you might ask, what’s wrong with a large company owning these brands? Absolutely nothing, but it’s better to be informed about one’s decisions, and at least for me, the perception of these little companies had been based largely on how the brands are packaged and labeled rather than any investigation.

Do you brush with Tom’s of Maine toothpaste? Well, it’s owned by Colgate.

Do you shop at Trader Joe’s? It’s owned by Aldi, the Walmart of Germany. Here is a statement about Aldi’s reputation in Germany, according to Wikipedia:

Originally Aldi stores were often ridiculed as being cheap shops selling low-quality goods, and that Aldi’s customers were mostly poor people who could not afford to shop elsewhere.

Here’s anecdotal evidence of how they treat their employees:

In April 2000, Aldi UK paid damages to a shop manager they had fired for being HIV-positive.

Do you buy balm from Burt’s Bees? Well, it’s owned by Clorox, famous for perpetuating and ingraining misogynistic stereotypes through the generations:

One commercial which showed several generations of women doing laundry, included the words “Your mother, your grandmother, her mother, they all did the laundry, maybe even a man or two”. The commercial received criticism from feminists on the grounds it insinuates laundry is a women’s job only.

Let’s move on to Scharffenberger and Dagoba, which are now owned by Hershey’s. When Hershey’s bought these companies, it closed down their original factories in Berkeley, CA and Ashland, OR factories, respectively, and now manufactures them out of the same factory in Illinois that churns out Milk Duds. Oh, and just so that they can keep Berkeley and Ashland on the packaging, Hershey maintains small storefronts in both places. How does Hershey’s rank in chocolate? Well, let’s ask Wikipedia again:

Hershey has been criticized for not having programs to ensure sustainable and ethical cocoa purchase, lagging behind its competitors in fair trade measures.

Kashi’s parent is the Kellog Company, but we don’t have to resort to Apple Jacks to criticize Kashi:

Kashi has been criticized on the ground that it promotes the impression that its products are organic, even though many products are not.

While this post is kind of a bummer, emphasizing the negative, I should mention that even after writing it, I still plan to shop at Trader Joe’s and use Tom’s of Maine deodorant. Pee-ewe! As for cereal, I like Barbara’s Bakery as a brand. It was originally from the Bay Area but is now owned by Lion Capital LLP, which also owns the Weetabix and Alpen brands you might find at your neighborhood Marks and Spencer.

Why do I stick with these brands? Well, first of all, they all started out on their own (just like the big companies that own them now!), and I think what made the larger companies purchase these little ones is that they offered something that the big ones couldn’t match. Sure, the little ones may have gotten a little dirty post acquisition, but I hope they’ve remained sufficiently surefooted to avoid the abyss of contamination. Now where have I heard that before?

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