If you believe, like I do, that the only way to stop food companies from producing health-harmful products is to stop purchasing them, then we are in fact winning that fight. Lots of times you will see the newspapers and food pundits calling for this or that regulation. Just the other day at this site I highlighted a recent call for a sugary beverage tax in California. Sin taxes would be the category that I would put taxes of this type in, and they have been claimed to be helpful in reducing the slope of the curve of cigarette smoking in the US. On the other hand they seem to have little effect on the taxes imposed on gambling or alcohol, the other things that are ‘sin taxed’. It leads me to believe that perhaps the sin tax does little to curb behavior, but the thought that you are hurting yourself with said behavior does much more.
Today in the Times, there is this article that describes the terrible climate that we have these days for boxed breakfast cereal makers.
For the last decade, the cereal business has been declining, as consumers reach for granola bars, yogurt and drive-through fare in the morning. And the drop-off has accelerated lately, especially among those finicky millennials who tend to graze on healthy options — even if Cheerios and some other brands come in whole-grain varieties fortified with protein now.
Back when I was buying this junk food to feed my kids in the morning before school, the worst thing about them was their exorbitant pricing. I suspected that there was price fixing, mainly because the prices would all drop a bunch any time the congress started investigating why cereal prices were so high. High prices may be part of the reason now that their sales are soft. The economy stinks, wages are stagnant, and the price of fueling your car is at or near all time highs, all the time. There is only so much you can buy with your never growing paycheck.
I would like to think that in part, though, the growing awareness of the dangers of processed food consumption is playing a role. That reason is featured as a good guess by the Times:
Cereal sales have long been subject to dips brought on by food fads like the Atkins diet or bagel mania. And many cereals are neither gluten-free nor protein-rich, so they fail to resonate with the growing number of consumers who are gluten-intolerant or adherents of the so-called paleo diet.
Some of the lower sales of sweet breakfast candies are probably due to the lower number of people who can afford them, some due to the growing awareness that they are candies, despite what the health claims on the labels say. Most breakfast sweets are eaten by kids and young adults, I would think, by people that don’t buy their own foods, but eat what is ‘prepared’ for them by whoever feeds them in the morning. Myself, I quit buying breakfast cereals soon after my kids were grown enough to not eat breakfast any more. If they ate cereal I really didn’t pay too much attention. Back then I didn’t eat breakfast at all.
The common observation by a lot of companies facing declining cereal sales is that this is a kind of death by a thousand cuts,” said Nicholas Fereday, an investment analyst specializing in food and agriculture at Rabobank and author of a report, “The Cereal Killers: Five Trends Revolutionizing the American Breakfast.” “This is frustrating for food companies because they’re faced with people making choices and they’re not really sure which trend to blame.”
Mr. Fereday noted, for instance, that the birthrate was declining — and children traditionally have been the largest consumers of cereal. Other demographic factors are at play as well: Many surveys have shown that Latinos and Asians prefer other breakfast foods.
Don’t you wonder like I do what the Latinos and Asians prefer to eat? The growth of that community is helping us to get rid of sweet breakfast deserts without sin taxes or government regulation. We can get rid of dangerous artificial ingredients in our foods the same way, by buying only single ingredient foods, located on the outside walls of your local supermarket. Buy nothing in bags, boxes, or bottles and you will be doing a great service to your family and to your community. It takes forever to get laws changed, and there is no guarantee that they will stay changed, but it only takes a couple of lousy quarters to change a corporation’s mind on what is profitable, and that doesn’t change back until we say it does. Change them with your wallet.