Marketing lessons from the most popular food companies (Top 10 brands)

Have you ever wondered, as I have, “Who exactly are the top food companies that feed all of us?”

And if they are so successful, what do these brands have in common? What does their marketing look like? How about their website navigation? Colors, branding, messaging? And as food manufacturers, what are they doing for marketing?

Who is the most popular food company?
Nestle S.A. is the top food company by sales with $95.7 billion in sales in 2021. Archer Daniel Midland was the 2nd largest food manufacturer by sales with $85.3 billion in 2021 sales.

As we dive into this group of food manufacturing and marketing tutorials, let’s first get a feel for who the top players are, what their specializations are and discover what is driving their brand success.

And, how are these biggest food manufacturers and brands steering their brands through the multiple, puzzling manufactured set of crises as of late.

This article discusses the ten largest food companies by revenue and how they measured against their rivals in 2021. Plus we briefly look at some of their brand portfolio as we investigate what these manufacturers are doing for marketing, branding and ultimately how they are gaining a customer, and keeping a customer!

Let’s get started.

1. Nestle S.A.

Nestle is the largest food company globally, operating in 197 countries and employing more than 300,000 people. It is estimated that the 150-year-old Swiss behemoth feeds the world with over one billion servings of products a day. Chances are you buy Nestle brands, which include Gerber, Lean Cuisine, Nescafe, Dreyer’s, Coffee mate, Kit Kat and more.

Founded in 1927, Gerber is one of the most well-known brands in the world. Today Gerber is one of Nestle's brands. Specializing in baby food, formula and snacks, Gerber has created a massive community providing support, education and a sense of community.

Their messaging, while it is not suggested a new brand attempt this, is impressive.

Just like we often teach, they even use the word "Free" in their marketing on their home page, above the fold. They have a good focus on their customer, navigation has many useful tools for the customer, it is easy to shop, a good offer at the top of the page, and they are delivering a nice "You" message. These are all clues making a strong case that Gerber is competing on the Customer Intimacy Customer Value Proposition. The navigation is a bit chaotic and messy, without a hyper clear goal for the customer. Depending upon their strategy, they could test some new navigation paths.

In 2021, Nestle made $95.7 billion, a $5 billion increase from its revenue in 2020.

2. Archer Daniels Midland Company

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) is a leading processor of corn, wheat, oilseeds, cocoa, etc. It is also a manufacturer and distributor of flavor systems, flavor ingredients, proteins, emulsifiers, polyols, soluble fiber, natural colors, and health and nutrition products. It has a solid $49.468 billion market cap and enjoyed annual revenue of $85.25 billion in 2021, a mind-boggling 33% increase from 2020.

ADM is also one of the food companies that were least affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Its $64.355 billion 2020 revenue was a meager 0.47% decrease from 2019.

What are the biggest food companies in the US_ADM

Archer Daniel Midland is the largest food manufacturer in the United States.

3. PepsiCo

Known for beverages, including Mountain Dew, Pepsi, and Gatorade, and household snacks like Doritos and Cheetos, PepsiCo is the 2nd largest food and beverage company in the U.S. and the third-largest globally. Pepsi’s brands include Pepsi, Gatorade, Lays potato chips, Ruffles, Doritos, Quaker Oats, Cheetos, Fritos and more.

One brand owned by PepsiCo is Muscle Milk. Here is their home page, above the fold.

What I like about this the most is their simplicity. Simple navigation. Clear call to action. And a clear, simple, easy to read headline that speaks precisely to their target market. Additionally, their social media accounts are only the three most important accounts as defined by their customers making their social media strategy easy to manage.

Whether a start up food manufacturer, or veteran, this is an excellent model for great manufacturer marketing.

Anyway, PepsiCo's company's full-year revenue for 2021 was $79.47 billion, a 13% increase from 2020.

4. Anheuser-Busch InBev

Anheuser-Busch InBev is a Belgian brewing company boasting hundreds of renowned brands, including Budweiser, Bud Light, Stella Artois, Shock Top, Aguila, Antarctica, Castle, and Castle Light. 

It reported revenue of $54.3 billion in 2021, a remarkable 15.8% increase from 2020 and a 3.77% increase from 2019.

5. Coca-Cola Co.

Ranked 114th in Forbes's Global 2000, Coca-Cola is one of the world's most recognizable brands. Following an 11.41% dip in revenue in 2020, the company redressed the balance in 2021 with a 17.09% increase. Coco-Cola’s brands include, Barq’s root beer, Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, DaSani water, Fanta, Gold Peak Tea, Minute Maid, Powerade, Sprite and more.

Its annual revenue for 2021 was $38.655 billion.

6. Mondelez International

Mondelez International is a Chicago-headquartered American multinational confectionery with a presence in 160 countries. Initially a Kraft Foods branch, Mondelez now owns famous food brands, including Oreo, Cadbury, Chips Ahoy, Halls, Honey Maid, Ritz, Philadelphia cream cheese, Triscuit, Wheat Thins, Belvita, Halls, Jello and more. It also boasts subsidiaries such as Cadbury, Nabisco, and the newly-acquired Chipita SA.

You won't walk into a grocery store and not find a snack product made by Mondelez. For this reasons alone, they are worthy of intense study.

One of their brands in Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies.

Similar to Muscle Milk, we feature them because of their simplicity. It's interesting to note that it appears the Mondelez team is branding all of their products under instead of branded url's. A good example of the old saying, "Is this a branded house or a house of brands."

Additionally, Mondelez and Chips Ahoy are focused on only three social media accounts that make the most sense for their customers. A clear, simple, headline, good use of a simple visual and easy navigation. Another good example of a solid food manufacturing brand. Depending upon their strategy, if they wanted to build their sales or get closer to the customer (B2B) they could add a response devise to inspire an action.

It's no wonder why Mondelez reported net revenue of $28.7 billion in 2021 and a 13.4% profit as a percentage of revenues.

7. Diageo plc

Headquartered in London, England, Diageo is the world's second-largest distiller after China's Kweichow Moutai. The company is also involved in producing, brewing, bottling, packaging, and distributing wine, beer, and spirits. It is present in over 180 countries and is renowned for Diageo brands such as Johnnie Walker, Captain Morgan, Baileys, Smirnoff, Crown Royal, Jose Cuervo, and Windsor.

In 2021, Diageo plc made $17.14 billion in revenue, a 15.66% increase from 2020. This made it one of the few companies that saw a revenue increase over the period, although its annual revenue for 2020 was a decrease from 2019.

8. Kweichow Moutai Co., Ltd.

Kweichow Mutai is the largest distiller in the world, having toppled the U.K.'s Diageo in 2017. The company is a subsidiary of the Kweichow Moutai Group, which the Guizhou Provincial People's Government owns. Its latest financial reports reveal the company made $16.93 billion in 2021. And like its global rival, Diageo, the company enjoyed considerable sales growth from 2020, when its revenue was down at $14.30 billion.

9. Tyson Foods, Inc.

Tyson Foods is the second-largest beef, chicken, and pork processor in the world behind Brazil's JBS S.A. The company holds the largest share of beef exports from the U.S. and primarily targets grocery wholesalers and retailers, military commissaries, meat distributors, chain restaurants, industrial food processing companies, and international export companies. Tyson Foods brands include, Tyson, Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, Sara Lee, Reuben, and more.

What is the most popular food company by sales Top 10 brands_cover

This brand is doing a fantastic job. Clear, simple, easy navigation. Clearly made for the consumer and the messaging is dialed in to what is important to them with a clear unique selling proposition. Plus, they make good use of the word free in their marketing on their homepage, offering free hot dogs, a cool gift and inspiring action towards their social media account.

Simple and well done.

Tyson Foods, Inc annual revenue has seen a steady rise since at least 2016. The 2021 revenue of $47.05 billion is the largest ever reported by the company. The 8.95% increase from 2020 is also the largest since 2015.

10. Danone S.A.

Founded in Barcelona, Spain, Danone S.A. is a Paris-based dairy and nutritional products manufacturer. The company's four business lines – Medical Nutrition, Fresh Dairy Products, Baby Nutrition, and Waters – target different markets in and out of France. Its annual revenue figures have mainly remained the same over the past decade, with 2017 and 2018 being its most successful years. Some of the Danone brands include, Oikos, Activia, Evian, Danone, Silk, Actimel, and more.

In 2021, the company reported annual revenue of $28,727 billion, a 6.5 increase from 2020.

As we close out, let’s take a quick look at one of Danone’s plant-based products, Silk. They offer a line of traditional dairy-milk alternatives. 

Here is a screenshot of a main page within their site, above the fold. And, without being disrespectful, this is a mess. No clear call to action. No benefits to the customer. 

And what are they selling? Are they selling a plant based diet, or are they selling a product? Are the two models eating bread? Or enjoying their product? If I have ever seen a company that needs to learn a lesson from McDonald’s, this is it. Go here and compare this to how clear and focused McDonalds is, as a comparison.

Also, the headline is hard to read and it is difficult to understand the meaning. Plus, the navigation bar is clunky, void of benefits and again, offers no real value or clear direction. Compare this to the screenshot of the Ballpark hot all beef hot dog brand as shown above. 

Many great lessons here on what to do and what not to do. 

These are some of the largest food companies in the world by revenue. These companies are led by large portfolios of food brands, most serving an industry niche in their respective food niche.

We can learn a lot from several of these food manufacturer’s brand positioning, market placement, food manufacturing practices, and general business practices. 



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