8 Companies Behind the 4th of July: Where Your Pool Toys, Beer, and Hot Dogs Come From
Fourth of July is the ultimate all-American holiday. Part of what makes it so American is the associated schwag. I can’t think of a single 4th I’ve celebrated without beer and BBQs, flags and fireworks, corn on the cob, and hot dogs.
Here’s a list of the eight major Independence Day accessories–and the companies behind them:
Beer: Anheuser-Busch, King of Production
Anheuser-Busch is the biggest brewing company in the United States, with a 48.8% share of national beer sales. By revenue, it’s the world’s fourth-largest brewing company (InBev, which tried to purchase Anheuser-Busch, is the second-largest brewing company in the world).
Lesser-known facts: 14 of A-B’s 15 breweries abroad are located in China. One is in the UK. Eight countries outside the US brew Budweiser locally: Canada, Argentina, Ireland, Japan, Italy, South Korea, Spain, and Russia. A flavor named Budweiser NA Green Apple is sold to tantalize Saudi Arabian palates. Surprising A-B strategic equity investments include: Negro Modelo, Tsingtao, Redhook, and Widmer Brothers.
BBQs: Weber Made the Grill
In 1958, George Stephen invented a new kind of grill. Stephen, a Weber Brothers Metal Works employee, created a dome shaped grill with a rounded lid—the first prototype of the classic Weber kettle grill. Today, upwards of 85 million American households own a grill. The Weber kettle grill started it all, even the gas grill, which the company introduced in 1985.
Lesser-known fact: Weber conducts an annual survey of people and their grills. Their conclusion for this year? People like their grills colorful. And people with grills entertain at home more often than people without them. I guess personality just isn’t enough to draw people over to your house.
American Flags: It’s All About Annin
Annin & Co., arguably America’s first flag company, made some old and important flags. Like these:
• It was an Annin flag that flew at the inauguration of President Zachery Taylor, starting an inaugural tradition that has continued through the inauguration of President George W. Bush.
• An Annin flag draped the coffin of President Abraham Lincoln on its journey from Washington D.C. to Springfield, Illinois.
• The U.S. Marines raised an Annin flag atop Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima in 1945
• NASA selected an Annin flag to participate in Apollo 11’s mission to the moon in 1969.
Today, the company claims to be America’s biggest and oldest flag manufacturer.
Lesser-known fact: Annin certifies its flags are not made in China—err, that all of its American flags are “made in the USA of materials that are domestic in origin and that all processes in every step of its manufacture were completed in USA facilities with USA labor.”
Fireworks: Diamond Sparkler is the Little Company That Can
We get most of them from China. But one sparkler company, Diamond Sparkler, has endured the outsourcing binge. Indeed, it’s the only remaining sparkler manufacturer in the country.
Retailers have been able to import China-made sparklers at much lower wholesale prices for years. Compounding the problem has been the illegal dumping of foreign produced sparklers in America.
“Diamond Sparkler struggles each year to make a profit,” said Bruce Zoldan, President of Phantom Fireworks. “But I just can’t envision something as American as sparklers, with its association with the 4th of July, not being made in this country.”
Lesser-known fact: There *is* an American fireworks manufacturer!
Hot Dogs: Wienermaker Does Good
Oscar Meyers Wiener is part of Kraft Foods, a company I was surprised to learn two lesser-known facts about. One, its chair and CEO is a woman: Irene Rosenfeld.
Secondly, Kraft has a recent history of donating aid to disaster-stricken countries. For example, they made a $150,000 donation to the Red Cross after China’s devastating Sichuan earthquake. They donated $50,000 to Myanmar cyclone victims through the World Food Programme. $20,000 went to the American Red Cross to help victims of the Georgia/Oklahoma/Missouri storms and tornadoes; $50,000 went to Iowa tornado relief through the same organization. Not bad for a megacorporation that puts krap in most of its food.
Corn: The All-American Inefficiency Crop
According to the National Corn Growers Association:
The United States is the largest corn producer in the world. In 2003, corn growers in the United States produced 256.905 million metric tons (MMT) of corn, exporting nearly 20% of the crop (51.0 MMT). The top five destinations for U.S. corn are: Japan, Mexico, Taiwan, Canada and Egypt.
Lesser-known fact: This year, we produced too much corn. The problem with corn is that it’s a) heavily subsidized by the government, and b) uses more energy to produce than calories it provides. As a result, the nation is wasting energy on growing much more corn than it needs to. Case in point: is high fructose corn syrup really the highest-quality, best-tasting, and healthiest sweetener out there? No. Then why does it find its way into almost every piece of food we buy?
Head to China New Era Heads the Pack
UPDATE: New Era, a Buffalo-based company, is the “largest sports-licensed headwear company in the world.” Deals with MLB, the NHL, the NCAA, and the NBA ensure that business stays lucrative for this domestic company. Readers, thanks for pointing out that all baseball caps do not come from China–a fact that makes me very happy.
The Peoples’ Republic of China was proud to produce your Starter cap.
I couldn’t find a single baseball cap manufacturer in the United States. Companies like Xing Chung, on the other hand, boast total annual sales of nearly $30 million. They export to Asia, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Australia, Central/South America, and, of course, North America. Their major customers include McDonald’s, KFC, BMW, Coca-Cola, Nokia, Siemens, Philips, Samsung, and a variety of other known corporations.
Lesser-known fact: That’s about as much as MySpace.com made per month last year.
Pool Toys: From China to Suburbia
They almost invariably come from China. Sometimes they impale children. Pool toys, it turns out, have a dark side. But they’re too much fun to dismiss.
Lesser-known fact: This year, somebody designed an amphibious PC workstation so that users can float in a pool while they work. Count me in.
I’m signing off for the week. Happy 4th of July, everyone!