Buying American, or investing in American companies, is not as easy as it once was. Foreign corporations or investors now own companies that many of us have always considered being "Made in America."
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Budweiser feels as American as baseball. In fact, you can find their beers at most American ballparks. In 1876, Adolphus Busch is said to have perfected the recipe for The Great "American" Lager. Sadly, it is no longer purely American. Although Bud Light and Budweiser are the number one and number two bestselling beers in America, the company is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev N.V (NYSE:BUD), a Belgian and Brazilian company headquartered in Belgium.
Who could turn down a Choco Taco, Strawberry shortcake on a stick or an Oreo Ice Cream bar? Especially when it's hand delivered by that American icon, the Good Humor ice cream man? You are never too old to be excited when the ice cream man drives by. However, what feels so all-American to us is anything but. In 1923, Good Humor received its first patent, a valuable asset. In 1965, Lipton purchased Good Humor. Later, Lipton became part of Unilever (NYSE:UL), a British-Dutch conglomerate.
If you live in an area served by a Trader Joe's store, you know it has an almost cult-like following. Much like Whole Foods (Nasdaq:WFM), Trader Joe's is known for healthy foods and ingredients. The original chain, established in 1958, was called Pronto Markets. In 1967, founder, Joe Coulombe, known as Trader Joe, changed the name. German billionaires Karl and Theo Albrecht, who also own a discount supermarket chain, ALDI, bought the company in 1979.
If you happen to live in or around Akron, Ohio, you know that one of the most storied parts of local history includes that of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company. Founded by Henry Firestone in 1900, the company not only produced tires it also invented a demountable rim that allowed drivers to change their own tires, and the non-skid tread. Sales topped $1 million by 1906 (over $25 million in today's dollars) and Firestone became a household name. In 1988, the Bridgestone Corporation (OTC:BRDCY) of Japan purchased Firestone.
When you see that cute little baby on the front of those jars of Gerber baby food, you can't help but think back to the days when your parents fed you from those tiny containers. Founded in Michigan in 1927, Gerber is, or rather was, an American icon. In 1994, Gerber merged with Sandoz Laboratories, which would later merge with a company that would form pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG (NYSE:NVS). Novartis would then sell Gerber to Nestle (OTC:NSRGY), a Swiss multinational, in 2007. Who could say no to that cute baby? American ownership, that's who.
This one has Americans completely fooled because it was never American to begin with. The iconic yellow and red Shell logo actually comes from Dutch company, Koninklijke Nederlandsche Petroleum Maatschappij. Doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, does it? The easier to pronounce name is Royal Dutch Shell, (NYSE:RDS-A) a company formed when Royal Dutch Petroleum and the Shell Transport and Trading Company merged in 1907. Each company was worried about a takeover by Standard Oil, a company founded by American John D. Rockefeller.
OK, it is not a company but this American medicine cabinet staple probably has better name recognition than half the corporations in America. Overeating is as American as pizza and yes, apple pie. In fact, if you regularly consume pizza followed by apple pie, chances are Alka-Seltzer is a staple in your house. Who can ever forget that tuneful Alka-Seltzer catch phrase, "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is?" It might sour your stomach to know that Alka-Seltzer is no more American than the taco. It is owned by Bayer AG, (OTC:BAYRY) a German pharmaceutical company.
The Bottom Line
Not to worry, there are still plenty of American companies alive and well - for now, at least. Ford (NYSE:F), Walmart (NYSE:WMT) and McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) are just a few. Some historic American companies have been purchased by foreign interests. However, we have a long ways to go before the American business itself becomes foreign owned.
At the time of writing, Tim Parker did not own any shares in any company mentioned in this article.