When we go to the grocery store, we are mostly looking for the products we know and are accustomed to using. But what we mostly don't know are the stories behind those products or the histories of the companies that put them on the shelves and into our homes.
Some are absolutely nefarious tales of corruption, deceit, and shady business practices, while others are nothing more than a funny story or "uh huh" moment.
Take a look at a handful of the stories behind the products and companies we hunt for when we're out in the grocery store.
Long before Banana Republic was a successful luxury clothing brand, the term "Banana Republic" was used to describe small countries in Central and South America with severe poverty, widespread corruption, and overall terrible leadership. But how did the term come to prominence?
In the early 20th Century, American Fruit companies began to secure land and pay off governments in impoverished nations such as Honduras and Guatemala in order to get better deals on growing and exporting varieties of fruit into the American market. The New York Times even wrote at one point:
"Over and over, banana companies, aided by the American military, intervened whenever there was a chance that any 'banana republic' might end its cooperation. In 1954, United Fruit helped arrange the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Guatemala."
The United Fruit Company might not ring any bells, but their current name might... Chiquita, one of the largest suppliers of bananas in the United States.
It's well-noted that World War II impacted countless products on both sides of the conflict, and that is not untrue about everyone's favorite breakfast spread: Nutella.
Pietro Ferrero, an Italian pastry chef who created the creamy spread a year after the end of the war in 1946, was forced to use hazelnuts in addition to the chocolate in what would be later called Nutella due to a severe shortage of cocoa after the war's end.
Pharmaceutical giant Bayer has been in the news a lot lately for its proposed acquisition and merger with Monsanto, but prior to working in concert with one of America's most hated corporations in Monsanto, the German-based Bayer had a storied history of shady business practices.
Near the end of the 20th Century, Bayer, along with other big pharma companies agreed to pay tens of millions of Euros to patients they knowingly infected with HIV-tainted blood as part of a blood clot drug program in the 1980s. Millions of patients were infected with the blood drawn from "prisoners, intravenous drug users, and high-risk gay men as donors of the blood [Bayer] then used to make Factor VIII and IX, the clotting product that hemophiliacs need in order to not bleed to death," according to CBS News.
Thousands of those patients later died of Aids.
There's a great deal of contention when it comes to the proper way to enjoy an Oreo cookie. One side says you should eat the creme filling then the cookie while other think it's best to dip the entire cookie in a glass of milk. However, there's no argument when it comes to the origins of one of America's favorite commercial cookies.
See, the Oreo cookie is nothing more than a more successful ripoff of the Hydrox cookie, introduced by Leaf Brands in 1908, a whole four years before what's now called Nabisoin 1912. From the time the Oreo cookie was introduced in the early 20th Century, it reigned supreme over its inspiration and is now considered "milk's favorite cookie."
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