The United States has the world's largest economy and some of the most creative and entrepreneurial minds on the planet - so Independence Day feels like a good time to celebrate the companies made in America that have changed our lives
The US gave us some of the world’s greatest fast food, coffee and smartphones, with a raft of products made in America slowly becoming part of our everyday lives.
In 2018, it’s rare if an hour goes by without people checking their iPhones several times, coffees are a central pillar of many people’s morning routines, and almost everyone relies on Google search engines for their news feeds and more.
Without any doubt, our lives wouldn’t be the same if it wasn’t for all the countless businesses and inventions the US has contributed here and across the world.
To celebrate Independence Day, let’s take a moment to acknowledge and appreciate some of the major companies to have come out of “the land of the free” – on America’s 242nd anniversary of independence.
Made in America: Costco Wholesale
Costo Wholesale Corporation, known to many as ‘Costco’, is the second-largest retailer in the world after Walmart.
The Washington-based company opened its first wholesalers in Seattle in 1983, but had already launched seven years earlier as warehouse store pioneer Price Club in San Diego.
By March 2018, it had roughly 749 warehouses in more than 12 countries including the US, Canada, Britain and more.
The brand now has more then 200,000 full and part-time employees worldwide.
The membership-only supermarket made it to number 18 on the 2015 Fortune 500.
In 2016, it had 85 million people signed-up members and that figure increased to 90.3 million in 2017.
It is one of the biggest retailers in America with impressive sales figures, it grew from zero to $3bn (£2.3bn) in sales in under six years.
In 2012, the company’s sales totaled $97bn (£73bn), with a $1.7bn (£1.3bn) net profit.
Made in America: Starbucks
The American coffee house chain opened its first branch in Seattle in 1971 after being set up by three business partners who met while they were students at the University of San Francisco – Jerry Baldwin, Zav Siegl and Gordon Bowker.
In 1987, they sold the Starbucks chain to former manager Howard Schultz, who drove the expansion.
By 1992, it had 140 outlets and announced its first IPO (initial public offering) on the stock market, with a revenue of $73.5m (£55.6m) and a market value of $271m (£205m).
The coffee company has always offered customers hot drinks, Starbucks-branded coffees, while in has since added beer, wine and appetizers to its menu in some locations.
In recent news, the company was in hot water over a “racial bias” customer service backlash.
Starbucks responded by closing 8,000 stores to train its employees, but this resulted in revenue losses of up to $30m (£22.7m) reported in April.
Despite its recent economic downturn, the company’s fundamentals remained strong as its earnings per share of 53 cents (40p) showed an improvement of 17.8% year over year, with a brand value of just over $43bn (£32.5bn).
Made in America: McDonald’s
The American fast food company was founded in 1940, in California.
Opened by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald – pioneers of the “speedee service system” – they later partnered with franchise agent Ray Kroc, who eventually bought the chain from them.
The business now operates in 36,000 restaurants worldwide, serving 70 million customers every day.
Its products include a selection of burgers, French fries, ice cream and more.
While it has become the world’s most popular fast food choice, it has faced a lot of backlash over the unhealthiness of its menu.
This has led the company to add salads, fruits, fish and smoothies to its menu.
McDonald’s is now the world’s second-largest private employer with about 1.5 million employees internationally.
In 2017, its worldwide revenue was $22.82bn (£17.26bn) – down from $24.62bn (£18.62bn) the previous year – with a brand value of more than $88bn (£66bn).
Other fast food brands that offer a similar range of products to McDonald’s are Burger King and KFC.
Made in America: Google
It’s hard to think of life without it, but Google is only 20 years old, having been founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
The Stanford University graduates launched Google as a search engine but it has since become attached to everything from cloud computing and advertising to driverless cars and robotics.
Google’s main revenue source is advertising, earning it a revenue of around $109.65bn (£82.9bn) last year.
Made in America: Apple
Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne’s empire was founded in April 1976 and has slowly creeped into our lives ever since with its computers and gadgets of all shapes and sizes.
The creator of the iPhone and iPad devices became the first US company to be valued at more than $700bn.
It employs about 123,000 people and has more than 400 stores in 22 countries.
In January 2016, it was announced that one billion Apple devices are in active use globally. Last year, it sold 216.76 million iPhones.
Apple is at present one of the most valuable brands in the world and is valued at $900bn (£680bn).
Made in America: Microsoft
While Apple has stolen some market share in computers, there was a time when Windows 95 could be found on almost any PC.
The brainchild of Bill Gates and Paul Allen was founded in 1975 but Microsoft continues to push boundaries of IT and tech under the leadership of current CEO Satya Nadella.
In April 2014, Microsoft acquired Nokia’s mobile phone business for $7.2bn, and by the following year it had become the world’s third largest maker of mobile phones – selling 33 million units annually.
In 2017, it took on Hexadite, an Israeli security firm, for $100m (£75m).
As of January 2018, the technology company reported earning of its second fiscal quarter of 2018, including revenue of $28.9bn (£21.9bn) and a net income of $7.5bn (£5.7bn).
Made in America: Walmart
In 1995, Sam Walton founded the department store and supermarket Walmart – a brand now synonymous with American suburban life but also a catalyst for spreading the supermarket concept globally.
As of January 2018, its international operation comprised 6,360 stores and 2.2 million employees in 26 countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Johannesburg and the UK.
In 2015, Walmart reported a net income of $17bn (£13bn), while the company’s international operations accounted for $197.7bn (£150bn) – or 40.7% of sales.
It is currently the world’s 18th largest public corporation, as well as the largest when ranked by revenue, according to Forbes Global 2000 list.
Walmart was doing well with its UK subsidiary, Asda, until it decided to sell up.
In April 2018, UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s announced a deal with Walmart to buy a majority of its stake.