Minneapolis-based Cargill is one of the world’s top producers and distributors of agricultural products such as sugar, refined oil, cotton, chocolate, and salt. Founded in 1865 by William Cargill, it has remained in the family ever since. The company's descendants own more than 90% of the company today.

According to the company's website, its purpose is to "nourish the world in a safe, responsible and sustainable way." The company says it does so by combining experience with innovations in technology to serve consumers across the globe. Learn a little more about the company as well as the top five companies owned by Cargill.

Key Takeaways

  • Cargill is one of the largest private companies in the United States.
  • The company has four main operating divisions including agriculture, animal nutrition and protein, food, and financial and industrial services.
  • Cargill's top five companies are Cargill Cotton, Cargill Ocean Transportation, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate, Diamond Crystal Salt, and Truvia.

Cargill: An Overview

Cargill is one of the largest private companies in the United States. Headquartered in Minnetonka, Minnesota, the company employs more than 160,000 people and operates in more than 125 different countries. The company has consistently ranked among the top of Forbes' list of private companies.

Cargill has been Forbes' top private company for 28 years since 1990.

The company has four different business divisions:

  • Agriculture: Cargill connects producers or grain, oilseeds, and other agricultural commodities with users through processing, marketing, and distribution. The company also links crop and livestock producers with farm services and products.
  • Animal Nutrition and Protein: The company serves producers in a range of animal food services such as dairy, pork, and pet food, along with meat and poultry products to different food companies and retailers.
  • Food: This segment serves food manufacturers, foodservice companies, and retailers food and beverage ingredients and services.
  • Financial and Industrial: Along with food and agricultural products and services, Cargill also provides its customers with trade-related financial solutions and risk management services.

Cargill's leadership team is headed by chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) David MacLennan. He took over as the company's ninth CEO in 2013. Before assuming the role of CEO, MacLennan was the company's chief financial officer (CFO) and its chief operating officer (COO). He first joined the company in 1991 as part of the financial markets division.

Because the company is private, it limits the release of financial details, but its annual report lists adjusted operating earnings dropped 12% to $2.82 billion in fiscal 2019. Cargill plans to shed some of its poorly performing companies and focus on its more profitable lines of business.

Cargill Cotton

Cargill’s cotton operations have roots dating back to 1818. With operations in India, the United Kingdom, Africa, Australia, Turkey, Brazil, and China, Cargill Cotton has a presence in every cotton-producing and cotton-consuming region of the world. It operates warehouses in the United States and Brazil and utilizes its massive logistics infrastructure to deliver the commodity around the world.

Cargill Cotton buys cotton throughout the world and has more than 1,000 employees. Through partnerships with other Cargill businesses, Cargill Cotton provides a wide variety of supply chain support such as financial solutions, risk management, quality control, and logistics.

The division assumed the name Cargill Cotton in 2002. Before this, it operated under the name Hohenberg Bros. Co. Cargill Cotton is headquartered in London.

Cargill Ocean Transportation

Based in Geneva, Switzerland, Cargill’s Ocean Transportation has multiple locations worldwide and has a fleet of hundreds of vessels transporting hundreds of millions of tons of cargo per year. The company makes thousands of port calls annually to over 700 different ports around the world. Iron ore, coal, grain, fertilizer, and sugar represent much of Cargill’s cargo, and the company is able to transport over 100 other dry bulk commodities.

The company also offers tanker freight shipping services for crude oil and petroleum products. Cargill maintains that it is committed to protecting the environment using safe and efficient ships, and researching and developing new technologies such as SkySails, which uses wind power.

Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate

Cargill’s Cocoa and Chocolate company operates along the entire cocoa supply chain, with sourcing and processing operations in the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Brazil, Cameroon, and Indonesia. The company produces a wide variety of cocoa and chocolate products in Europe, North America, and Brazil under the Wilbur, Peter's, and Veliche brand names. Cargill also provides products used by food companies around the world.

The cocoa industry faces several challenges that threaten the supply of the commodity. The majority of the global cocoa crop comes from small farms in emerging markets in West Africa. Most of these farms were established many years ago, and now have aging, less-productive trees. Expecting worldwide demand for cocoa and chocolate to increase, Cargill plans to provide farmer training, community support, and farm development to improve sustainability.

Diamond Crystal Salt

Cargill is the largest provider of salt in the United States and markets a variety of salt products through its Diamond Crystal brand. Cargill first entered the salt industry when it acquired mineral rights in Belle Isle, Louisiana, in 1962. The company also acquired a number of rock salt mines across the United States in the decades to follow and doubled in size with the acquisition of Diamond Crystal from Akzo Nobel Salt in 1997.

Diamond Crystal produces salt at rock salt mines, evaporated salt plants and solar salt operations at several U.S. locations and in Australia. It also harvests salt from offshore locations such as Bonaire and Venezuela. The company produces, packages, and ships salt for agricultural, food, water conditioning, industrial, and packaged ice control purposes.

Truvia

Developed jointly with Coca-Cola (KO), Truvia is a zero-calorie stevia-based sugar substitute marketed by Cargill as a tabletop sweetener and food ingredient. Because Truvia comes from the stevia plant, Cargill classifies the product as a natural sweetener. Coca-Cola uses stevia in its Coca-Cola Life beverage brand.

Cargill also developed a new zero-calorie product in 2015 that it calls EverSweet, using a new fermentation process that produces certain molecules in the stevia plant. The process, developed along with Swiss biotech company Evolva Holding SA could potentially provide major beverage producers with a low-cost natural sweetener.