A couple of days ago I found an article on the Fortune magazine website that started with this headline:
In my opinion just about every word of it was good news. It was about a decade ago that people wanting to eat less carbs on the Atkins diet spawned a new niche of food, there were lots of new things popping up that sought to replace old standby foods, sought to mimic things we liked eating, but that didn’t have carbohydrates in them. It didn’t last long, but some of them are still around. The Atkins craze was just that, a crazy wave that big food could milk until the wave subsided.
This time, it’s different.
An analysis by Moskow found that the top 25 U.S. food and beverage companies have lost an equivalent of $18 billion in market share since 2009. “I would think of them like melting icebergs,” he says. “Every year they become a little less relevant.”
The iceberg is very large, and it is reacting to the melting away of it’s market share. Mostly when these companies that make up this iceberg find someone that is melting the customers away they react by buying the competition. When you started buying Atkins diet products they started buying Atkins diet food companies.
That strategy won’t work this time.
It’s pretty simple what people want now: simplicity. Which translates, most of the time, to less: less of the ingredients they can’t actually picture in their head.
Where do we find simple at, readers? On the outside walls of the store. We find single ingredient foods. Lettuce. Meat. Butter. The inside aisles are crammed floor to ceiling with foods that have health claims on the labels. They claim to have healthy additives. The foods on the outside walls of the store don’t have labels and they don’t need health claims. The nutrients in them are in exactly the right proportions for your dietary needs.
What is happening is not a ‘War on Big Food’, it is a migration back to real food. They cannot buy us back. By turning to local, by turning away from fake, we are reclaiming the food supply of America.
I still don’t know for sure how I will be able to live on just local food when California no longer has the water it needs to produce spring vegetables for us all winter long. I am for sure that I can do it, though, because being able to buy lettuce all winter long is a relatively new phenomenon for man. I will not have to turn to boxed foods to get by.
Someday soon we will all have to eat local foods to get by. The market will change to meet that demand. Maybe ads on television will be for things like broccoli and hamburger. Maybe we won’t need food ads at all to attract us to healthy local foods. What would really happen if we all turned our backs on processed foods, even those found in the ‘health food’ section of your nearest mega-mart? Can we go back to eating locally sourced foods, or are we now trapped in a world where food must be trucked over a thousand miles, or be produced from artificial ingredients in a factory around the world?
The men and women of near-history that didn’t have access to modern convenience foods had something that we don’t have in abundance these days, time. People didn’t have to carve time away from this season of “Girls” or the hottest new video game. Before electricity was in every home people spent most of their time getting ready for winter. Fresh foods were collected or purchased and preserved in jars for the looming time of shortage. Meats were preserved, dried, and smoked, vegetables fermented and canned. It is harder to do these things for yourself now. You have to find the vegetables when they are ready, not when you are. Same goes for the meats. I can see the attraction of prepared and processed foods.
Yet, I am not all that attracted. I know that even the simplest of processed foods contain things that are not good for me, or not as good as any of the real foods that are available to me.
You want to know how serious this is all getting, and how I know that this time is different? Hershey Chocolate is spiking all artificial ingredients in its chocolates. They will use real vanilla, instead of vanillin. Once again there will be actual milk in milk chocolate. You know what we, as consumers, will lose in this deal? Consistent flavor will be the only casualty. Industrial vanillin has a consistent flavor, where as vanilla flavor changes with the weather where it is grown. Chocolate may someday be like fine wine, where the year of the chocolate manufacture has real meaning. What a world.