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The Country's Richest Food Families

There's a lot of dough in food

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Dough. Bread. Cheddar. Perhaps it's no coincidence that some of the most popular slang terms for money reference food. After all, there's a lot of money in soup, chocolate bars, and beer — industries that today seem a bit old-fashioned. 

Don't let that humble soup can fool you. Forbes today released its annual ranking of America's richest families. The list includes many of the usual suspects — the Waltons, the Kochs —  and the sources of wealth run the gamut from retail to money management. But one industry that's also earned American families a lot of, ahem, dough over the years, is food.

Below, a closer look at the one-percenters who have managed to snag the largest pieces of the billion-dollar food industry pie, along with their net worth, and how they like to spend their cold, hard cash.

Mars family

Net worth: $78 billion
Rank on Forbeslist: #3
Industry: Candy

Affiliated food companies: Mars, Inc. Mars is no longer just a candy company — it diversified into other areas years ago — but it still owns dozens of food brands, including Dove, Milky Way, M&M's, Seeds of Change, and Uncle Ben's.

Noteworthy news stories this year: M&M McFlurries May Be Facing ExtinctionMars Inc. Eliminates Artificial Colors from M&Ms, Skittles, and More

Political contributions: According to OpenSecrets, Mars has spent some $33 million on lobbying efforts since 1998. Jacqueline Mars has donated primarily to Republicans over the years, giving $23,500 to the RNC in 2012. Forrest Mars has given to Republican candidates, too (George W. Bush, for one) though, according to the FEC's website, he hasn't made any contributions lately.


Dorrance family

Net worth: $17.1 billion
Rank on Forbes list: #13
Industry: Soup

Affiliated food companies: Campbell Soup Co.

Noteworthy news stories this year: Campbell's Is Getting In On the Cold-Pressed Juice TrendCampbell's Soup Will Nix Artificial Colors and Flavors by End of 2018Why General Mills and Campbell Soup Are Investing in Up-and-Coming Food Brands

Political contributions: The bulk of the company's political contributions are made through its own PAC (yep, Campbell established its own Political Action Committee, called Campbell PAC, in 2005).

Campbell primarily gives to Republicans, though Democratic candidates have lined their coffers with some soup money, too. According to Open Secrets, the company has given $9,608 to Democrats (candidates or PACs) and $42,907 to Republicans during the 2016 election cycle. Its PAC has raised more than $43,000 this year, and given notable contributions to another food PAC, American Bakers. American Bakers is known as "The Political Action Committee of Grain-Based Foods" and counts Carly Fiorina among its fans.


Busch family

Net worth: $13.4 billion
Rank on Forbes list: #18
Industry: Beer

Affiliated food companies: Anheuser-Busch

Noteworthy news stories this year: Anheuser-Busch Is Being Sued Because Leffe Beer Isn't Really Made by MonksBudweiser Wants to Be Known Simply as 'America' This SummerBudweiser Sued for Allegedly Using Native American Tribe's Logo to Sell Beer

Political contributions: Affiliates of the beer behemoth have already given $2,036,080 to campaigns in the 2016 cycle, according to Open Secrets, only 10 percent of which went to Democrats. The Anheuser-Busch PAC (that's right, it has its own PAC, too) has given to a number of candidates on both sides of the aisle — though most of them are Republicans.


Brown family

Net worth: $12.3 billion
Rank on Forbes list: #20
Industry: Liquor

Affiliated food companies: Brown-Forman Corp., which produces some of the world's most popular alcohol brands (think Jack Daniel's, Finlandia, and Herradura).

Noteworthy news stories this year: Sourcing, Labeling & Lawsuits: Why American Whiskey Should Improve Its LabelsBrown-Forman CEO's FY 2016 total compensation was $9.6 mln vs $11.02 mln in 2015

Political contributions: So far this year, the Brown-Forman PAC has given more than twice as much to Republicans as it has to Democrats ($9,970 to Republicans, $4,000 to Democrats). Perhaps unsurprisingly, the bulk of its contributions go to candidates in Kentucky, which is where the company was founded and where it is currently based. One of the top recipients of Brown-Forman money is Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has received $173,250 from PACs and individuals affiliated with the company over the course of his career. Owsley Brown Frazier, the grandson of founder George Garvin Brown, has made notable donations to McConnell, as well.


Butt family

Net worth: $11 billion
Rank on Forbes list: #23
Industry: Supermarkets

Affiliated food companies: H-E-B (a Texas-based grocery chain)

Noteworthy news stories this year: HEB Opts Out of Texas Open CarryShipt to launch H-E-B home delivery service

Political contributions: Charles Butt, who inherited his family supermarket chain in the '70s, has made a slew of hefty political contributions in the past six months alone. According to the FEC, in February and March combined he gave $260,000 to New Day for America, a pro-John Kasich Super PAC. Since Kasich dropped out, and Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, Butt hasn't made any known contributions.


Gallo family

Net worth: $10.7 billion
Rank on Forbes list: #25
Industry: Wine, liquor

Affiliated food companies: E. & J. Gallo Winery (wine brands include Gallo Family Vineyards, Barefoot Cellars; liquors include  New Amsterdam gin and vodka and Familia Camarena tequila)

Noteworthy news stories this year: Gallo Acquires Orin Swift Cellars of St. Helena

Political contributions: According to the FEC, CEO Joseph Gallo has made a number of political contributions, most of them in the '90s. In 2015, he gave $4,375 to Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy's campaign, but hasn't donated to any campaign yet this year.

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