Popular “American” Brands That Are Actually Made Overseas

As the global economy evolves, several once proudly American-owned companies have undergone significant transformations, now under foreign ownership. This shift can be attributed to strategic acquisitions by international corporations seeking to expand their market presence, capitalize on technological advancements, and gain access to valuable intellectual property.

Let's explore the reasons behind these changes and examines the implications for both the companies involved and the broader business landscape.

Converse: China

Converse
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Mario Tama/Getty Images

Converse, an iconic American brand known for its sneakers, was acquired by Nike in 2003. Since the takeover, production of Converse shoes shifted overseas, no longer made in the United States.

Regardless of the change in ownership and manufacturing location, Converse remains a popular and recognizable brand globally, continuing to influence sneaker culture.

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Trader Joes: Germany

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Trader Joe's was founded by Joe Coulombe in 1958. He opened the first store in Pasadena, California. In 1979, ownership passed to Theo Albrecht, a German billionaire, through his company Aldi Nord.

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Trader Joe's is renowned for its unique and affordable products, emphasizing private-label items, diverse snacks, and a friendly shopping experience.

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Holiday Inn: Britain

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Holiday Inn was founded in 1952 by Kemmons Wilson, a businessman from Memphis, Tennessee. The chain quickly expanded, gaining fame for its consistent quality, affordable prices, and distinctive green logo.

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In 1988, Holiday Inn was taken over by British multinational company Bass PLC, which further strengthened its global presence as a renowned hotel brand.

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Frigidaire: Sweden

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Frigidaire, originally an American company founded in 1916, specialized in refrigeration technology and appliances. It was acquired by General Motors in 1919 and became a subsidiary. However, in 1979, Frigidaire was purchased by Electrolux, a Swedish multinational company.

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Since then, it has continued its operations under Electrolux ownership, expanding its global presence in the appliance market.

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Oster: Australia

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Oster, a blending products company, was acquired by the Australian company Sunbeam in the past. Sunbeam's takeover expanded its portfolio to include Oster's range of blenders and other kitchen appliances.

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Throughout its history, Oster introduced popular products like the Osterizer blender, the Beehive blender, the Versa Pro Series blender, and the Classic Series blender, all of which became well-known for their blending capabilities and durability.

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Lays: Multinational

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Lay's, a former American potato chips company, is now owned by PepsiCo. Once an independent entity, Lay's became part of PepsiCo's snack division in the 1960s.

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Currently, it is under the ownership of PepsiCo, a multinational food and beverage corporation with its headquarters in Purchase, New York, USA. Countries like Colombia and Israel have factories.

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Motorola: China

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Motorola, an American company, was a telecommunications pioneer. However, it is no longer American-owned. In 2011, Google acquired Motorola Mobility, the consumer-oriented division.

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Subsequently, in 2014, Lenovo, a Chinese multinational technology company, took over Motorola Mobility. Currently, Motorola Mobility is under Chinese ownership, with Lenovo as its parent company, headquartered in Beijing, China.

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Anheuser-Busch Brewing: Belgian-Brazilian

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Anheuser-Busch is a renowned brewing company founded in 1852 in St. Louis, Missouri. In 2008, it was sold to InBev, a Belgian-Brazilian multinational brewing company, for $52 billion.

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As of my last knowledge update in September 2021, Anheuser-Busch is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, making it one of the largest beer conglomerates globally.

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Forbes Magazine: Hong Kong

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Forbes Magazine, once American, is now under the control of a Hong Kong-based group. In 2021, Integrated Whale Media Investments acquired the majority stake, shifting the company's ownership outside the United States.

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In spite of the change in control and location, Forbes remains an influential global media outlet renowned for its coverage of business, finance, and entrepreneurship.

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Dirt Devil: China

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Dirt Devil, founded in 1984, started as a household vacuum company in the USA. In 2013, Chinese manufacturer TTI acquired Dirt Devil, leading to production shifts.

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TTi began to produce both Dirt Devil and Hoover vacuum products in China, marking a significant change in the brand's origins and manufacturing process.

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Popsicle: British-Dutch

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Popsicle, established in 1923, began as an American-owned company. However, it is no longer American-owned, and it was acquired by Unilever, a British-Dutch company. Unilever currently owns Popsicle, with its headquarters located in London, UK.

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The acquisition of Popsicle marked a significant change in the ownership and management of the once-American frozen treat brand.

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Burger King: Canada

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Burger King, often mistaken as American, originated in 1954 in Miami, Florida. It was bought and founded by James McLamore and David Edgerton.

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Despite its roots, the company is now owned by Restaurant Brands International, a Canadian multinational company formed through a merger between the Canadian company Tim Hortons and the American company Burger King in 2014.

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Wilson Sporting Goods: Finland

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The Wilson Sporting Goods Company, headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, is an American sports equipment manufacturer. It became a subsidiary of Amer Sports in 1989 and was later acquired by Anta Sports in 2019.

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Wilson produces a wide range of sports equipment for baseball, badminton, football, basketball, golf, and more, catering to various sports enthusiasts.

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Oakley Sunglasses: China

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Oakley sunglasses display a "Made in the USA" label, confusing their actual manufacturing origin. Though headquartered in Foothill Ranch, California, Luxottica acquired Oakley in 2007, leading to some production relocation to China.

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While 70 percent of parts are sourced from the USA, the remaining 30 percent are outsourced from other countries, generating controversy about the brand's true production identity.

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Tesla: China

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Tesla, founded in 2003 in the USA, began as an American-owned electric vehicle manufacturer. However, it is no longer American-owned.

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In 2019, Chinese company Tencent Holdings acquired a stake in Tesla, becoming a significant shareholder. Tencent Holdings, headquartered in China, now holds a portion of ownership in the world-renowned electric car company.

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Purina: Switzerland

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Purina, originally American-owned since its founding in 1894, changed ownership. In 2001, it became a subsidiary of Nestlé, a Swiss multinational company. It was bought for the low price of $10.3 billion.

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Nestlé owns Purina and operates its headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. The acquisition marked a significant milestone in the company's history and expansion into the global market.

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American Girl Dolls: China

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American Girl Doll company was established in 1986 and was founded by Pleasant Rowland in Middleton, Wisconsin. The brand gained popularity for its historically themed dolls and books. In 1998, American Girl was acquired by the global toy company Mattel.

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Over the years, Mattel shifted much of its doll production to China, reflecting the changes in its manufacturing strategy.

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UBER: China

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Uber, founded by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp in San Francisco, has redefined modern transportation by sharing rides since 2009. In 2016, facing intense competition, Uber sold to Chinese rival Didi Chuxing.

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The decision stemmed from losing $1 billion annually to Didi, making it challenging to sustain the rivalry with the dominant Chinese transport firm. CNBC reported the acquisition as a strategic move to stay afloat in the competitive market.

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French's: Britain

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Once it was almost as American as apple pie, in the flavorful world of condiments, French's stands tall as an iconic American brand, renowned for its mustard, fried onions, and delectable food offerings.

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Born from the culinary vision of Robert Timothy French, surprisingly, its journey took a twist when it was acquired by the British powerhouse Reckitt Benckiser Group. The merging of cultures added a dash of intrigue to its flavorful history.

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AMC Theaters: China

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Dalian Wanda Group, a Chinese conglomerate, acquired AMC (American Multi-Cinema) Theatres, the American movie theater chain, in 2014. The takeover made Dalian Wanda the world's largest cinema operator.

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The $2.6 billion deal allowed AMC to expand its global presence and gain access to new markets, while Dalian Wanda enhanced its position in the entertainment industry by gaining a significant foothold in the United States.

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Sunglass Hut: Italy

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Sunglass Hut, a renowned global retailer of sunglasses, originated in 1971 in Miami, Florida, USA. It was founded by optometrist Sanford Ziff, who aimed to offer a wide selection of high-quality eyewear.

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Since its inception, the company rapidly expanded its growth, establishing a strong presence in the eyewear market. Sunglass Hut is owned by Luxottica Group, the world's largest eyewear company, and remains a leading player in the industry.

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Craftsman: China

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Craftsman, once an iconic American brand, has a rich history dating back to 1927, offering high-quality tools cherished by generations.

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As globalization progressed, Craftsman faced economic challenges. In 2017, Stanley Black & Decker acquired the brand and shifted much of its manufacturing to China, altering its heritage. Today, while some products retain American production, many Craftsman items are now sourced from China.

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G.E. Appliances: China

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Originally part of General Electric, GE Appliances was headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, and it later became a stand-alone company. In 2004 It merged with GE Consumer & Industrial Products, founded in 1905.

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In 2016, Chinese company Haier acquired GE Appliances for $5.4 billion. Despite the Chinese ownership, it remains one of America's largest appliance brands, continuing its presence and operations in the United States.

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Gilette Razors: China, Mexico, And Poland

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Gillette Razors, originating in Boston, Massachusetts, showcased its "Made in Boston" legacy through a bold ad campaign, highlighting its American and Bostonian identity.

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Gillette sources parts from the US and China, and the batteries and handles are obtained from various overseas locations like Mexico and Poland, making it a global brand for both production and use.

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Legendary Entertainment Group: China

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Legendary Entertainment Group, an American media company founded in 2000 by Thomas Tull, operates from Burbank, California. From 2005, it collaborated with Warner Bros to co-produce and co-finance films distributed by Universal Pictures.

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In 2016, the Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group acquired Legendary for $3.5 billion. Frequent CEO changes leave the company's future uncertain.

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7-Eleven: Japan

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Initially founded in Dallas, Texas, in 1927, 7-Eleven was an American store abroad. However, it evolved and now spans 66,579 stores across 17 countries.

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In 1991, the Japanese company Seven & I Holdings acquired the international chain for $1 billion. Despite the change in ownership, the familiar taste of Slurpees remains unchanged.

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Calvin Klein: China

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Calvin Klein, founded in New York City in 1968, gained fame for its clean silhouettes and casual glamour, attracting high-profile spokespeople like Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner. While ads featured celebrities, the brand's sourcing practices evolved over time.

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Initially relying on materials from China, it expanded to include specialty materials from Italy. Thus, Calvin Klein, an American brand, now boasts a diverse global production network while maintaining its allure with prominent celebrity endorsers.

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Ironman Triathalon Brands: China

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The Wanda Group, headquartered in Beijing, China, wields significant influence across diverse industries like healthcare, finance, construction, sports, and retail. With a keen interest in acquiring American companies, they notably purchased AMC Theatres, resulting in doubled profits.

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In 2015, the iconic Ironman triathlon and brand were acquired from Providence Equity Partners LLC for $900 million, representing a shift of ownership from American to international hands.

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Good Humor Ice Cream: UK

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Once an American company, Good Humor ice cream holds nostalgic memories with its iconic ice cream trucks and jingle, delighting children nationwide. Founded in Ohio in 1923, the brand initially started with a chocolate cream bar and expanded to 2,000 ice cream trucks.

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However, in 1961, it was acquired by the UK-based Lipton brand, marking a shift in ownership from American hands to an international entity.

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Fisher-Price: China

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Fisher-Price, a renowned toy brand under Mattel, has brought joy to countless homes with its diverse range of kids' toys. While it faced setbacks with Chinese vendor-produced toys due to lead concerns in 2007 and 2020, the company is determined to rebuild customer trust.

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Their Little People toys, featuring play sets like houses, schools, and garages, continue to be a global favorite.