Some of America's Favorite Brands Aren't Actually American

Think your favorite American company is based in the United States? You may be in for a rude surprise.

Foreign business owners love acquiring iconic and well-respected brands into their portfolios. The built-in customer base of people who want to support American companies is significant. And those shoppers usually have no idea that the transfer of ownership may mean that the company isn’t technically U.S. based any longer.

Is your favorite nostalgic brand still based in the United States? Read on for the most surprising American brands that aren’t American anymore.

1. Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s | chameleonseye/iStock/Getty Images

  • Current parent company: Unilever
  • Currently headquartered: England

This famous ice cream brand was founded by best friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield when they transformed an old gas station into an ice cream shop in 1978. But like so many other brands on the list, Ben & Jerry’s was scooped up by Unilever in 2000 for a cool $326 million.

Next: This tobacco company went overseas.

2. Lucky Strike

Cigarettes | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

  • Current parent company: British American Tobacco
  • Currently headquartered: England

Founded in Virginia way back in 1871, Lucky Strike was one of the first companies to utilize cigarette manufacturing machines. In the 1930s, their brand was on top of the game, though they declined in popularity in more recent decades. This recognizable brand had a bit of a renaissance when the show Mad Men was on the air.

Next: You might drink this beer and never know it’s not American-owned.

3. Budweiser

Budweiser | Dorisall/Wikimedia Commons

  • Current parent company: Anheuser-Busch Inbev
  • Currently headquartered: Belgium

The self-proclaimed “King of Beers” was able to reach a large audience from the get-go since they were the first to utilize pasteurization, which let them widen their distribution. Founded in 1852 by a German immigrant, the Budweiser brand was purchased in 2008 for a whopping $52 billion.

Next: This apparel company went bankrupt and had to sell.

4. American Apparel

American Apparel | David McNew/Getty Images

  • Current parent company: Gildan Activewear
  • Currently headquartered: Canada

Well, technically they’re still headquartered in North America — just not in the United States.

Known for being made in the USA and sweatshop free, this California-based clothing brand filed for bankruptcy protection in 2015 and spent two years in recovery mode. Then in 2017, Canadian-based Gildan Activewear swooped in and acquired the brand plus manufacturing equipment for $88 million.

Next: This popular grocery store started in California.

5. Trader Joe’s

Trader Joes grocery store entrance with sign |

  • Current parent company: Aldi Nord
  • Currently headquartered: Germany

Cult favorite TJ’s began in California in 1967 as a competitor to popular convenience store 7-11. The very first Trader Joe’s store is still operating today, selling can’t miss customer favorites like bottles of two buck chuck. However, Trader Joe’s is no longer based in the United States. Aldi’s owner Theo Albrecht purchased the brand in 1979.

Next: This product dates back to 1870 but now it’s foreign-owned.

6. Vaseline

Vaseline | Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums/Wikimedia Commons

  • Current parent company: Unilever
  • Currently headquartered: England

Considering its wide range of uses, it’s surprising that the substance known as Vaseline was once just a waste product from oil drilling. Robert A. Chesebrough, a chemist from Brooklyn, began marketing Vaseline in 1870 as an effective treatment for burns, cuts, and diaper rash. Unilever purchased Vaseline in 1987.

Next: The sweetest treats you’ll ever eat are owned by a foreign company.

7. Good Humor

Vanilla ice cream | aizram18/iStock/Getty Images

  • Current parent company: Unilever
  • Currently headquartered: England

The enduring image of a classic American summer is kids flocking to an ice cream truck on a hot day. One brand that was always in stock? Good Humor.

Harry B. Burt from Ohio came up with the idea of putting ice cream confections on sticks and selling them out of a truck. After Burt died in 1996, the company went public and was eventually acquired by the global powerhouse Unilever.

Next: A man used his wife’s recipe to create a national brand.

8. Hellman’s

Mayonnaise | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

  • Current parent company: Unilever
  • Currently headquartered: England

A German immigrant named Richard Hellmann took his wife’s beloved mayonnaise recipe into the mainstream when he founded Hellman’s in 1913. The company was bought by their main competitor, Best Food, in 1932. Then in 2000, Unilever bought both of them and continues to sell both brands simultaneously.

Next: This pet food manufacturer is now based overseas.

9. Purina

Dog food | herreid/iStock/Getty Images

  • Current parent company: Nestle
  • Currently headquartered: Switzerland

Purina started out as a wheat cereal company in 1894. Then company president William H. Danforth had the brilliant idea to sell animal food as pellets and the rest, as they say, is history. Switzerland-based company Nestle merged with Ralston Purina in 2001, which is why they’re now known as Nestle Purina Petcare.

Next: Statistically, you probably have this product in your fridge right now.

10. French’s

French’s mustard | Wikimedia Commons

  • Current parent company: Reckitt Benckiser
  • Currently headquartered: England

Founded by Francis French, this iconic mustard brand was introduced during a time when there was no such thing as a prepared mustard spread — you used to have to make your own. The company claims that French’s product can be found in about 36% of all U.S. households.

French’s was first purchased way back in 1926 by the U.K.-based company J&J Colman. Two mergers later, it belongs to Reckitt Benckiser.

Next: This company was founded in 1916.

11. Frigidaire

Fridge |

  • Current parent company: AB Electrolux
  • Currently headquartered: Sweden

First, there were ice boxes. Then there was Frigidaire.

The first American refrigerator company was founded under the name Guardian Frigerator Co. in 1916. A mere two years later, General Motors purchased the brand and renamed it Frigidaire. It changed hands once more before the Swedish company AB Electrolux bought them in 1986.

Next: This product was created by accident.

12. Popsicle

Ice pops |

  • Current parent company: Unilever
  • Currently headquartered: England

The Popsicle brand has become synonymous with the product. This “American classic” was invented by accident when 11-year-old Frank Epperson accidentally froze a stick in a cup of soda in 1905. Epperson sold his idea to the Popsicle Company and it was an instant success. After battling for years for market share, Popsicle sold to Good Humor in 1989. Both were eventually acquired by Unilever.

Next: The largest convenience store chain in the world is currently Japanese-owned.

13. 7-11

Super Big Gulp and Double Big Gulp cups | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

  • Current parent company: Seven & I Holdings
  • Currently headquartered: Japan

Convenience stores are typical now, but 7-11 is the oldest. Jefferson Green was one of the first to offer milk, bread, and eggs at a Southland’s Ice House in 1927. The company was renamed 7-11 in 1946 to advertise their extended hours. Now, 7-11 is the largest convenience store chain in the world, though they’re no longer owned by an American company.

Next: This fast food chain is now owned by a Canadian company.

14. Burger King

Burger King | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

  • Current parent company: Restaurant Brands International
  • Currently headquartered: Canada

This fast food heavyweight came onto the scene in 1954 as Insta Burger King in Miami with 18 cent burgers and milkshakes. Eventually, they dropped the Insta, added the Whopper, and thus a legacy was born.

The company changed ownership several times over the years and eventually went public in 2006. These days they’re back to being privately owned under the Restaurant Brands International umbrella in Canada, the same company that owns Tim Horton’s.

Next: They’re known for being made in America, but their parent company is Chinese.

15. General Electric

General Electric sign | Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images

  • Current parent company: Haier
  • Currently headquartered: China

General Electric appliances have a distinctive “Made in America” logo, and for now, that may be true. But industry experts speculate that it could all change since the brand was purchased by the Chinese company Haier in 2016 for $5.4 billion.

Read more: 20 Iconic Brands Your Grandma Used That Are Still Popular Today

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