Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Food & Beverage Companies Funding Think Tanks

The Atlantic Council has the usual donor mix of large defense corporations, technology companies, and foreign governments that a typical major think tank would have.

But over the years it has had an eclectic mix of food and beverage donors, including Starbucks (which gave $100,000 - $250,000 in 2018), Total Wine & More (which gave $100,000 to $250,000), Cafe Milano ($50,000 - $100,000), Chobani ($25,000 - $50,000), Coca-Cola, and Nestle.

An Atlantic Council spokesperson tells Think Tank Watch that the Cafe Milano donation is related to Franco Nuschese, who is a board director of the Atlantic Council and provides in-kind support with the use of his restaurant for leadership dinners and other private events. 


The donation from Total Wine is related to the think tank's former International Advisory Board member David Trone, who stepped down from that position when he was elected to the US Congress.  


The contribution from Chobani, according to an Atlantic Council spokesman, was in relation to the Global Citizen Awards when Atlantic Council honored Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya for his commitment to philanthropy and helping refugees. 


A number of other food-related entities contribute to think tanks.  One example is the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which is a donor to the Brookings InstitutionPepsiCo, another Brookings donor, also gives to other think tanks like the Aspen Institute and the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).


Pernod Ricard, a worldwide producer of wines and spirits, in a donor to the Wilson CenterMcDonald's Corp. is a donor to the Aspen Institute.  And Japan's Kikkoman Foods, a soy sauce producer, is a donor to PIIE.


Besides the Atlantic Council, Coca-Cola gives to other policy shops such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  Other donors to CSIS include Kikkoman and Kellogg's.

To be sure, donations to think tank land from the food and beverage industry are nothing new.  Joseph Coors of the Coors Brewing Company was a founding member and primary funder of the Heritage Foundation in its early years.

And at least up until the COVID pandemic, food (notably the humble think tank cookie) was the fuel that kept think tankers motivated and helped attract think tank event attendees to the thousands of talks that took place every year.