Holiday Inn, Dial Soap & Other Famous Not-So-American Brands

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iStock

Anheuser-Busch's announced sale to Belgian brewing giant InBev has been cause for considerable consternation among many members of the media, who seem to think that selling a company so firmly grounded in the American way of life is downright unpatriotic. To hear many people tell it, selling the makers of Budweiser to a foreign conglomerate is tantamount to selling nuclear secrets to Iran, burning a flag, or saying, "No thanks, I don't like apple pie that much." Some digging, though, reveals that lots of brands we think of a "solidly American" are in fact owned by foreign investors.

Miller Brewing Company
You don't even have to leave the beer market to find a company that's been through a transition similar to the one facing Anheuser-Busch. Milwaukee's Miller Brewing, Budweiser's closest competitor, isn't owned by American interests anymore, either. In 2002, South African Breweries bought a controlling interest in Miller by shelling out $3.6 billion in stock and taking on $2 billion of Miller's debt. The deal created the world's largest brewer, which took on the new hybrid name of SABMiller. The company, which also makes such imports as Peroni, Grolsch, and Pilsner Urquell is headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Holiday Inn
What could be more American the Holiday Inn, whose "great signs" were a key icon of classic vacations of the 1950s? Kemmons Wilson opened the first Holiday Inn in Memphis in 1952, and by 1957 owned an exploding chain of franchises. In a seemingly unrelated development in 1989, the British government put the kibosh on breweries owning too many of their own pubs in the U.K. In response, the brewers of Bass started to grow their hotel business. In 1988, Bass started acquiring Holiday Inn's international operations, then bought up the domestic hotels in 1990. The move did so well that Bass actually got out of the beer business by divesting itself of its brewing operation and trademarks in 2000 and switched its name to Six Continents PLC, which later morphed into InterContinental Hotels Group, which currently owns all Holiday Inns.

Lucent Technologies
The name "Lucent" may not ring a lot of bells, but it had a history as a firmly American concern. In fact, Lucent was originally part of AT&T; it was known as AT&T Technologies and specialized in telecomm equipment manufacturing. When AT&T split into three companies in 1996, Lucent became a stand-alone spinoff, and it stayed that way for a decade. Then, in 2006, French competitor Alcatel swallowed Lucent as part of an $11 billion acquisition. The renamed company, Alcatel-Lucent, is headquartered in Paris.

Firestone
Firestone is probably ingrained in your brain as one of America's oldest tire companies, a venerable institution that dates back to early-20th-century Akron. However, after years of taking huge losses and running up billions in debt, the company put itself on the market in 1988. Japanese tire company Bridgestone bought Firestone for $80 a share, or roughly $2.6 billion.

Columbia Pictures
After its inception in 1919, Columbia Pictures cranked out some of America's favorite films, including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, one of the most iconic screen visions of American patriotism and integrity. Other major hits in the studio's archives include On the Waterfront, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and Ghostbusters. However, the company's not in American hands. Coke briefly owned the company in the 1980s but allegedly talked itself out of the entertainment industry when Ishtar flopped. After a couple of years as a stand-alone company at the end of that decade, Japanese electronics colossus Sony bought Columbia for $3.4 billion in cash in 1989 to bolster its entertainment portfolio.

DKNY
Just reading the name "DKNY" might make you think the company is American. After all, it stands for "Donna Karan New York." However, its cash flows run to Paris, not New York. French holding company LVMH Moet Hennessy"“Louis Vuitton made an aggressive bid to buy the company in 2001, and as a result designer Donna Karan's brainchild moved into foreign hands as part of a $243 million purchase. It's now nestled in LVMH's portfolio alongside other luxury spirits, fashion labels, and cosmetics.

Hellman's
Richard Hellman was at the forefront of the condiment industry when he opened a delicatessen in New York and started selling his wife's mayonnaise in 1905. In 1932, Best Foods bought out Hellman's burgeoning mayo empire, and the brand bounced around various companies' portfolios until Best Foods became an independent company in 1995. In 2000, though, Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever gobbled up Best Foods for $20.3 billion in stock and $4 billion in debt. Along with Hellman's, Unilever picked up several other well-known food brands, including Skippy peanut butter, Karo syrup, and Entenmann's baked goods.

Dial Soap
Dial originated in 1948 as America's first deodorant soap; it was originally an offshoot of Chicago-based meat processor Armour and Company. It has had a tumultuous history, including a period of ownership by Greyhound, which was perhaps a clever attempt to synergize based on the dirty feeling one has after a long bus ride. By 1996 Dial was solely a hygienic products and cleaning company once again, and then in 2004 it was purchased by German consumer product Henkel KGaA, which also owns brands like Duck Tape and Persil detergent. Henkel dropped $2.9 billion to pick up the soapmaker, in part because it thought Dial's portfolio would play well in developing markets.

Ethan Trex grew up idolizing Vince Coleman, and he kind of still does. Ethan co-writes Straight Cash, Homey, the Internet's undisputed top source for pictures of people in Ryan Leaf jerseys.
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8 Surprising Facts and Misconceptions About Recycling

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iStock.com/KatarzynaBialasiewicz

If you pat yourself on the back for just remembering to separate the recycling or haul that big blue bin to the curb each week, you're not alone. Despite the strides we appear to be making toward eco-consciousness as a country, we have a long way to go in helping the Earth, as evidenced by our complicated relationship with recycling. These facts about the most prevalent of the three Rs will make you pause the next time you throw anything away.

1. The United States's recycling rate is low—really low.

Figures from the Environmental Protection Agency show that America recycles about 34.7 percent of the garbage it produces. (The world's top recyclers—Germany, Austria, Wales, and South Korea—report a rate between 52 and 56 percent.) But Mitch Hedlund, founder and Executive Director of the organization Recycle Across America isn't even sure the recycling rate often quoted is accurate because there is so much junk mixed in with actual recyclables.

Recycle Across America is currently working to encourage the use of standardized labels for recycling bins to eliminate the confusion over what actually belongs in these receptacles. "If the U.S. gets the recycling number up to 75 percent, which we believe is completely possible once the confusion (over what to place in the bins) is removed, it will be the CO2 equivalent of removing 50 million cars from the roads each year in the U.S. and it will create 1.5 million permanent new jobs in the U.S. (net)."

2. Proper recycling can result in monetary savings.

Businessman stepping on green squares with recycling symbols
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While Hedlund admits the idea of providing universal labels clearly stating what should be placed in the bins is a simple one, it's making a serious impact on those who have jumped on the bandwagon. "Many schools are seeing dramatic increases in their recycling levels since using the society-wide standardized labels on their recycling bins," she says. "For instance, in the pilot program at Culver City schools in Los Angeles [County], their recycling levels doubled when they started using the standardized labels and the materials they were collecting in their recycling bins were so much less contaminated with garbage." Another story, she says, is that "as a result of a donation from Kiehls (who makes a donation to Recycle Across America each April in the sum of $50,000), all of the schools in the San Diego Unified School District and San Diego County started using the standardized labels. San Diego Unified School District reduced their landfill hauling fees by about $200,000 (net) in the first year."

3. Recent changes from China have severely impacted the recycling industry.

Until 2018, China took 40 percent of the United States's recycled paper, plastic, and metal. But in January of that year, China imposed strict new rules on the levels of contamination (think food or other garbage mixed in with the recyclables) it's willing to accept—standards American cities are largely unable to meet. Because of that, and a lack of suitable destinations closer to home, many cities have been forced to incinerate or stockpile recyclables until they can find a better solution.

4. Only 9 percent of plastic is recycled in the U.S.

The nation recycles less than 10 percent of its plastic, compared to 67 percent for paper materials, 34 percent for metals, and 26 percent for glass. And China's restrictions have especially affected plastic—while exports of scrap plastic to China were valued at more than $300 million in 2015, they amounted to $7.6 million in the first quarter of 2018, down 90 percent from the year before.

5. Clothing can be recycled, but it rarely is.

Clothing at a garage sale
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Unfortunately, most curbside haulers don't accept textiles, and America has a serious problem with old clothes ending up in the trash. In 2019, the nation is on track to throw away more than 35 billion pounds of textiles, according to the Council for Textile Recycling—almost double the number from 1999. On the plus side, some cities have set up drop-off points for unwanted clothes, and there are a variety of ways to sell or donate unwanted items. Some brands, including Eileen Fisher and Patagonia, have also introduced buy-back programs for their items.

6. Aluminum is the world's most-recycled packaging product.

Crushed aluminum cans
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Nearly 70 percent of aluminum cans are recycled internationally, according to Novelis, a leader in rolled aluminum products and recycled aluminum. Aluminum is infinitely recyclable without degrading, meaning it can be reused in a way completely different from what it was in its previous life, or recast into its original form. Not only is aluminum the world's most-recycled product, it's also the most profitable and the most energy-efficient. Using recycled aluminum instead of virgin materials saves about 95% of the energy, compared to 60% for paper and 34% for glass [PDF].

7. That soda can you're drinking from could find its way back to you more quickly than you think.

According to Novelis's research, an aluminum can that is recycled can be back on a grocery store shelf within 60 days [PDF]. That's a seriously speedy turnaround.

8. Scrap recycling is big business.

While the words scrap recycling might have you humming the Sanford & Son theme song, it's far from being a junkyard industry. According to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), in 2017 U.S. scrap recyclers processed more than 130 million tons of scrap metal, paper, plastic, glass, textiles, and more—material that was sold back to industrial consumers in the U.S. and around the world, generating close to $18 billion in export sales. All told, scrap recycling was a $117 billion industry in 2017 [PDF].

This list first ran in 2015 and was updated by Mental Floss staff in 2019.

From Cocaine to Chloroform: 28 Old-Timey Medical Cures

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YouTube

Is your asthma acting up? Try eating only boiled carrots for a fortnight. Or smoke a cigarette. Have you got a toothache? Electrotherapy might help (and could also take care of that pesky impotence problem). When it comes to our understanding of medicine and illnesses, we’ve come a long way in the past few centuries. Still, it’s always fascinating to take a look back into the past and remember a time when cocaine was a common way to treat everything from hay fever to hemorrhoids.

In this week's all-new edition of The List Show, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy is highlighting all sorts of bizarre, old-timey medical cures. You can watch the full episode below.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here.

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