Many products you buy and restaurants you visit are owned by a small number of giant but relatively obscure companies. Here are 11 that are behind an incredible number of famous brands.
1. Unilever: From soap to soup
Unilever is a massive corporation responsible for more than 400 brands. It says its products are used by 2.5 billion people every day.
It may not make everything from soup to nuts, but it's pretty close.
The company has a more than 150-year history, and for decades its home base was split between England and the Netherlands. But Unilever recently decided to make the Dutch city of Rotterdam its one and only headquarters.
It also produces several iconic foods in the U.S.: Hellmann's mayonnaise, Lipton tea and Knorr soups.
And Unilever is a giant in the ice cream and frozen dessert business. It's the company behind the Breyers, Ben & Jerry's, Good Humor, Klondike, Magnum and Popsicle brands.
2. Mondelez: How about a snack?
Though the name looks Latin American or French, Mondelez International is a U.S.-based snack foods powerhouse that has been around just since 2012.
It used to be part of Kraft Foods.
The name is pronounced mawn-duh-LEEZ and is a made-up word intended to mean "delicious world."
Need something to nibble on? Mondelez has something for that. Its cookie brands include Oreo, Fig Newtons, Chips Ahoy, Nilla, Tate's Bake Shop and Nutter Butter.
The company also owns these cracker brands: Wheat Thins, Ritz, Triscuit and Nabisco Premium saltines.
Additionally, Mondelez makes Sour Patch Kids candy, Dentyne gum and Halls cough drops.
3. Berkshire Hathaway: Handpicked by Buffett
Even if you haven't heard of Berkshire Hathaway, you ought to know its billionaire leader.
The chairman and CEO is the legendary investor Warren Buffett.
It's a conglomerate made up of companies Buffett has liked enough to say, "I'll take it!" Berkshire has bought them and added them to its portfolio.
The major brands fully owned by Berkshire include Dairy Queen, Fruit of the Loom, Geico insurance, Helzberg Diamonds, Pampered Chef kitchen tools and Benjamin Moore paints.
Plus, Duracell batteries, Oriental Trading party supplies, Garanimals kids clothing and See's Candies.
Would you like a chunk of all of that? Buffett has famously never split his company's Class A stock, so it has been trading at more than $300,000 per share. But there's also a Class B that's considerably cheaper.
4. RBI: Fast-food royalty
Restaurant Brands International, or RBI, is a relatively young fast-food business.
The company was created in a 2014 merger.
It currently has three big brands under its umbrella.
RBI, which is based in suburban Toronto, was formed when Burger King merged with the coffee and doughnuts chain Tim Hortons.
Three years later, the company added fried chicken to its growing corporate menu when it bought Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen.
Analysts expect more deals will give RBI an even bigger fast-food empire.
5. JAB Holding Co.: Brekkie big shot
JAB Holding Co. is a secretive German investment conglomerate.
It used to focus on luxury products, such as Bally and Jimmy Choo designer shoes.
But it has been selling off those brands — and cornering the market on breakfast.
JAB now owns nearly every coffee and bakery brand other than Starbucks.
Your town is probably filled with these chains, which are all part of JAB: Krispy Kreme; Einstein Bros. Bagels; Krispy Kreme; Panera Bread; Caribou Coffee; Bruegger's Bagels; Peet's Coffee; and Au Bon Pain.
The company also has stable of popular consumer products. They include Keurig coffee makers and Green Mountain coffee, plus Dr Pepper and Snapple soft drinks.
6. Reckitt Benckister: Health and home
Next time you're in that cabinet under the sink — in either your kitchen or your bathroom — take a close look at product packaging.
You'll likely find that a ton of stuff is made by the British consumer products company Reckitt Benckiser, or RB.
It says its products are available in nearly 200 countries all around the world.
Reckitt Benckiser's brands
Reckitt Benckiser divides its brands into two categories, "health" and "home hygiene."
Some of RB's health products are: Mucinex cold and flu medicine; Gaviscon antacid; Clearasil acne cream; Durex condoms; and Veet hair remover.
The company's well-known home hygiene brands include: Air Wick air fresheners; Lysol cleaners; Calgon water softener; Finish dishwashing products; and Woolite laundry detergent.
7. Conagra: Brands by the bushel
A head-spinning number of iconic brand names are part of the family at Conagra Brands.
It's a Chicago company that got its start 100 years ago as a collection of four Midwestern flour mills.
You'll find Conagra products down virtually any food aisle at the supermarket — and most likely in all sections of your fridge and pantry, too.
Here are some highlights from Conagra's colossal lineup of brands, broken into several categories:
- Bread spreads and oils: Blue Bonnet, Earth Balance, Fleischmann's, Gulden's mustard, Pam, Parkay, Peter Pan peanut butter, Smart Balance, Wesson
- Canned foods: Chef Boyardee, Hunt's tomato products, La Choy, Libby's canned meats, Manwich, Rosarita, Ro-Tel, Van Camp's Pork and Beans, Wolf Brand Chili
- Frozen foods: Alexia, Banquet, Bertolli, Birds Eye, Celeste Pizza for One, Evol, Healthy Choice, Hungry-Man, Marie Callender's, Mrs. Paul's, P.F. Chang's Home Menu, Van de Kamp's
- Popcorn: Act II, Angie's Boomchickapop, Crunch 'n Munch, Fiddle Faddle, Jiffy Pop, Orville Redenbacher's, Poppycock
- Other snack foods: Andy Capp's Hot Fries, David Seeds, Duncan Hines cake mixes, Frontera chips, salsas and sauces, Reddi-wip, Slim Jim, Snack Pack pudding, Snyder of Berlin chips and pretzels, Swiss Miss
- Salad dressings, sauces and syrups: Aunt Jemima, Log Cabin, Mrs. Butterworth's, Open Pit, Wish-Bone
- Miscellaneous: Egg Beaters, Gardein, Hebrew National franks, Lender's bagels, Udi's Gluten Free, Vlasic pickles.
8. Diageo: House of spirits
Diageo is a company that makes happy hour possible.
The London-based distiller is the world's largest producer of spirits, and it's also responsible for one of the world's top beers. The company says its more than 200 brands are enjoyed in over 180 countries.
Diageo was founded in 1997 but its roots go way back to the 1600s, and its history includes the real-life people named John(nie) Walker, Tanqueray and Smirnoff.
If you like the hard stuff, you've likely tossed back a Diageo product.
Its huge roster of brands includes: Johnnie Walker, Crown Royal and J&B whisky; Smirnoff and Ketel One vodka; Gordon's, Tanqueray and Gilbey's gin; Captain Morgan rum; Don Julio tequila; and Baileys liqueur.
If you prefer beer, Diageo keeps the Guinness stout flowing at bars worldwide, and it has a few other more local brews, such as the Kenyan beer Senator Keg.
9. Roark Capital: Fast food, pet food and more
Atlanta-based Roark Capital Group takes its name from the lead character in the Ayn Rand novel The Fountainhead.
The company says Howard Roark exemplifies independence and integrity — qualities that inspire the firm's investment style.
Roark Capital is a leading owner of familiar franchises that you encounter every day. It says the brands in its hefty portfolio have 36,000 locations and operate in all 50 states and 81 countries.
Roark and its affiliates are the majority owners of no fewer than 25 food and restaurant brands — something for every taste.
They include Arby's, Auntie Anne's Pretzels, Buffalo Wild Wings, Carl's Jr, Carvel Ice Cream, Cinnabon, Corner Bakery, Hardee's, Il Fornaio, Jamba Juice, Jimmy John's, Miller's Ale House, Moe's Southwest Grill, Naf Naf Middle Eastern Grill, Rusty Taco, Sonic and Schlotzsky’s.
Roark also is the parent company of the Pet Supermarket and Pet Valu stores, plus these other chains: Batteries Plus Bulbs; MAACO and Meineke auto repair shops; Anytime Fitness and Orangetheory Fitness; Great Expressions Dental Centers; and Massage Envy.
10. Mars: Candy and much more
Chances are, your favorite treats are made by Mars — and maybe your pet's favorites, too.
The company is based in Washington, D.C.'s Virginia suburbs and made its name in candy and gum, so when you think of Mars you might first think of Mars chocolate bars.
Ironically, those are no longer widely available in the U.S. But you do find many, many other Mars sweets, pet products and food brands.
You see many of Mars most popular brands at the checkout: Life Savers; M&M's; Altoids; Skittles; Wrigley's Spearmint, Juicy Fruit, Eclipse and Big Red gum; Snickers, Milky Way, Twix and 3 Musketeers candy bars.
Elsewhere in the grocery store, Mars is the company behind Uncle Ben's rices; and Seeds of Change and Tasty Bite rices and sauces.
11. Darden Restaurants: Dinner is served
What's for dinner? If you're going out tonight, you could very well be dining with Darden Restaurants.
Darden — headquartered in Orlando, Florida — is considered the world's largest full-service restaurant company.
It boasts more than 1,700 places to eat that serve nearly 390 million guests every year.
Darden operates both fine dining establishments and more casual sit-down restaurants.
The company's upscale chains include Eddie V's Prime Seafood and The Capital Grille. Then there's Seasons 52, which is called "polished casual" — not too fancy, but not too casual either.
Don't feel like dressing up? Darden has these more everyday restaurant brands: Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Yard House and Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen.