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Nine Food-Related Companies That Are Changing the World

From irrigation technology to making vitamin-packed yogurt, these companies are leaders in their field.


According to Fortune's list of 50 companies that are changing the world, here are nine that are revolutionizing the food game.

Whole Foods — This Austin-based company set the bar for grocery stores. Placing focus on healthy, natural, and nutritious foods, the company pushed competitors to begin carrying more organic food in order to keep up. The retailer is also opening a lower-priced 365 store (which should open five locations by 2016), refuses to sell overfished seafood, pushes for animal-welfare standards, and will require that all products sold in its sores that contain GMOs be clearly labeled by 2018.

Jain Irrigation Systems — Based in India's western Maharashtra state, this company first started selling micro-irrigation systems back in 1986. These systems take the technology used in industrial agriculture and apply it to the smaller farms owned by families, helping to increase their crop yields drastically (anywhere from 50 to 300 percent). This has dramatically improved the livelihoods of five million small farmers in India.

Unilever — This consumer goods company is the third-largest in the world, so the fact that more than half of Unilever's agriculture materials come from sustainable sources has a huge impact. It has also helped to train 800,000 farmers on how to grow crops more responsibly.

Costco — When looking to buy groceries in bulk, many Americans turn to Costco, one of the biggest food retailers in the country. Instead of paying its employees minimum wage, like many of its competitors, most Costco workers make an average of $21.50 per hour, and 90 percent of employees qualify for benefits. Despite paying well over the national average for cashiers ($9.12 per hour), Costco's profits in 2014 reached $2.06 billion. In fact, the store is doing so well it's going head-to-head with Whole Foods in the organic food market.

Danone — Helping impoverished youths get the nutrition they desperately need, this French company is leader of the pack in its industry. It studies the diets of youths from different countries and creates healthier foods packed with nutrients to fit their needs. In Brazil, it's created a cheese low in sugar and full of vitamins, while Bangladesh's youth consume 600,000 servings a week of Shokti-Doi, a nutritious yogurt.

SABMiller — This U.K. beverage company is one of the biggest in the world, recently offering to acquire Heineken in an attempt to continue its growth. However, the conglomerate is not only about its bottom line. It also helps to support the small businesses that carry its brews. In Uganda, it's created a locally-developed sorghum beer, Eagle, that provides jobs for 20,000 local farmers. In Latin America it also provides financial assistance to the 780,000 shops that sell its product, increasing the "tiendas" sales by an average of 12.8 percent since 2013.

Starbucks — Boasting 21,000 stores in 65 countries, Starbucks has revolutionized the way we drink our morning coffee. Luckily, 99 percent of the millions of pounds of coffee that the mega-giant will buy this year will be ethically sourced. Forty-thousand coffee farmers have been directly impacted by the $20 million that the company has invested in coffee farms. Starbucks has also launched a job initiative to hire 100,000 jobless millennials that has been recently joined by 12 other major companies.

Cargill — In India, cooking oil can be found in 99 percent of the homes of its 194 million people. Most of it comes from Cargill, a company that produces more than 500,000 tons of edible oils in the country each year. In 2008, the company made a huge difference when it started fortifying its oils with vitamins A and D to help fight malnourishment. This has sparked other competitors to do the same, resulting in most cooking oils in the country being fortified.

Ayala — Since 1997, Ayala's Manila Water Co. has provided water to 99 percent of Manila residents 24 hours a day. Many consider the company a hero, vastly improving conditions where only 3 percent of homes had access to a sewer system and only a quarter of homes had potable tap water. Today, its "Water for the Poor" program helps to assure that the area's 1.8 million low-income homes have access to clean water around the clock.

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