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Familiar brands aren't always American brands
Our Buy American Mention of the Week!
by Roger Simmermaker
February 26, 2011

Consumers often make a habit, and understandably so, of patronizing products with which they are familiar. Well-known brand names can result in positive emotional responses in the brain, according to the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

So it's no surprise we often purchase products that we know well. The problem is that many of these brand names aren't American brands, which should quickly dampen certain positive emotions in the minds of many patriotic Americans.

Let's say you're in the supermarket looking at frozen pizzas. You might want to bypass that DiGiorno pizza, thinking it's Italian, and instead go for the Tombstone pizza. It turns out that both Tombstone and DiGiorno are owned by the same company, but neither brand is Italian nor American. U.S.-based Kraft Foods sold both brands to Swiss-owned Nestle last year.

American-brand seeking shoppers can't even go by the familiarity of the brand name or how it sounds, either. If you've ever looked at company information on a box of Hot Pockets or Lean Pockets, you've probably noticed it is owned and produced by Chef America. Sounds American, doesn't it? But Chef America is owned by Switzerland-based Nestle, too (Nestle is the largest food company in the world).

Here's why this confusing labeling practice is allowed to happen: Foreign-owned companies can and do almost always list the address of their American subsidiary on the package instead of the ultimate foreign parent company on the package. This tricks us into thinking we're buying an American brand, when we really aren't.

When we're patronizing a service, like looking for a hotel or a convenience store, it's even more difficult to buy American because there's no tag or label to look at. Did you know 7-Eleven stores are owned by the Japanese, or that Motel 6 is owned by the French? By passing Motel 6 for Holiday Inn won't help either since Holiday Inn is owned by the British. Hampton Inn, Super 8, or Days Inn would be an American choice if you really want American hospitality.

Thinking of picking up an American-made Hula Hoop or Frisbee? Both brands are owned by the Chinese. How about that American-made Haier refrigerator? That's owned by the Chinese, too. And you'll never know by looking at the label.

Ok, so bypass the Haier refrigerator and get a Frigidaire instead. An American brand, right? No, it's Swedish. Frigidaire was once actually owned by General Motors, but Electrolux bought the brand in 1986, and moved their Greenville, Michigan facility to Mexico in 2006, destroying 2,700 good-paying American jobs.

If you've ever bought "I Can't Believe it's Not Butter," you might soon be thinking "I Can't Believe it's Not American" since this brand is owned by Unilever, which is a joint venture between England and The Netherlands. Try Land-O-Lakes butter, which is American made, union made, and American owned.

Unilever is a huge company, owning such familiar brand names as Q-Tips, Lever 2000 soap, Ragu pasta sauce, Lipton tea, Snuggle fabric softener, and Hellmann's/Best Foods mayonnaise.

Regarding that Radiological Society of North America survey mentioned above, just because a well-known brand may be foreign owned doesn't mean the American alternative is necessarily now well-known or even lesser-known. It may just be that we aren't in the habit of buying it as often or at all. It's never too late to change simple buying habits, especially when you can boost American jobs without any inconvenience and without spending an extra dime.

"How Americans Can Buy American" has over 20,000 American brand name products and services listed, so we can buy American-made products from American-owned companies. Of course it's not necessary to change all of your habits, but changing just a few in areas where you don't care and any product will do will go a long way to revitalizing the American economy, keeping jobs at home, and our money in America where it should be.

Roger Simmermaker is the author of How Americans Can Buy American: The Power of Consumer Patriotism. He also writes "Buy American Mention of the Week" articles for his website and is a member of the Machinists Union and National Writers Union. Roger has been a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC, has been quoted in the USA Today, Wall Street Journal and US News & World Report among many other publications, and is now a weekly contributor to WorldNetDaily.


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