Special Report

Ten Classic American Brands That Are Foreign-Owned

6. Purina
> Founding date: 1894
> Sector: Pet food
> Current parent company: Nestle
> Currently headquartered: Switzerland

Founded in St. Louis in 1894 by William H. Danforth, George Robinson and William Andrews, the original Purina company was initially known for its wheat cereal. Company president Danforth revolutionized the production of pet food by producing animal feeds in pellet form and renamed the company Ralston Purina. General Mills acquired Ralston’s cereal business in 1997. Swiss multinational food manufacturer Nestle merged with Ralston Purina Company in December of 2001, creating a new division, Nestle Purina PetCare.

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7. French’s
> Founding date: 1876
> Sector: Condiments
> Current parent company: Reckitt Benckiser
> Currently headquartered: England

Francis French, co-owner of R.T. French Company, expanded his father’s spice business to include a prepared mustard spread, which in general was not commercially available in 1904. Since its introduction at that year’s World’s Fair in St. Louis, French’s mustard has become an American staple. According to the company, French’s can be found in roughly 36% of all U.S. households. Despite its great American history, the company was acquired by a foreign entity early in its history. In 1926, J&J Colman, based in the U.K., purchased French’s for $3.8 million. Now, after two additional mergers, French’s is controlled by U.K.-based Reckitt Benckiser.

8. Frigidaire
> Founding date: 1918
> Cateogry: Appliances
> Current parent company: AB Electrolux
> Currently headquartered: Sweden

The Guardian Frigerator Company was founded in 1916 to manufacture the newly developed electric refrigerating units. Prior to the invention, consumers generally kept their food cold with ice boxes. Compression-driven air conditioning was a novel concept. General Motors purchased the refrigerator manufacturer just two years later, naming it Frigidaire. Over the following few decades, General Motors often competed with Kelvinator and General Electric for top share in the new lucrative refrigeration market. In 1979, White Consolidated Industries, also an American company, acquired Frigidaire. Seven years later, however, the company changed hands again when it was acquired by multinational Swedish appliance manufacturer AB Electrolux.

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9. Popsicle
> Founding date: 1923
> Product: Ice cream
> Current parent company: Unilever
> Currently headquartered: England

Popsicle, touted as an “American classic,” began by accident when 11-year old Frank Epperson left a stick in a cup of soda outside in freezing temperatures in 1905. Epperson sold the product to the Popsicle Corporation, and the frozen fruit juice on a stick was on its way to becoming an American icon. Following complicated legal battles between the ice pop company and ice cream manufacturer Good Humor over the definition of ice cream, Good Humor acquired Popsicle in 1989. Eventually, Anglo–Dutch multinational consumer goods company Unilever acquired Good Humor and its subsidiaries.

10. 7-Eleven
> Founding date: 1946
> Product: Convenience stores
> Current parent company: Seven & I Holdings, Co.
> Currently headquartered: Japan

7-Eleven, aptly-named for its extended hours, was one of the first convenience retailers. Jefferson Green, an employee at Dallas, Texas’ Southland Ice Company, began offering milk, bread, and eggs at one of Southland’s ice houses in 1927. As the ice houses grew in popularity, they became convenience outlets and came to be known as Tote’m stores, because “customers ‘toted’ away their purchases.” It was not until 1946 that the stores changed their name to 7-Eleven. Today, 7-Eleven is the world’s largest convenience store franchisor. In 2005, Seven-Eleven Japan completed its purchase of 7-Eleven, Inc, becoming Seven & I Holdings, Co. Ltd.

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