Times change. At one time people liked big-band music and mellow crooners. Then rock and roll made its loud, frenetic entrance. Trumpets and trombones were out and electric guitars were in.
Big Food companies today find themselves stuck in a business model equivalent to the big-band era. These industrial giants are geared to make things “better,” faster, cheaper and more efficiently. Lower unit prices come from big-scale production that provides economies of scale. But for that type of production you need standardization, and this is where we get one type of tomato or potato engineered to be shipped long distances.
Consumers today are rebelling just like kids did in the '60s. They want more choice and they’re asking more questions. Where does it come from? How is it made? What artificial ingredients are in it? What are the values of the company selling it? So, there are more reasons to potentially reject buying a product.
Good food rebels
Growing numbers of shoppers want organic. They want local. They want “full of nutrition.” They want variety—different vegetables, different grains. This is much more rock and roll—or, really, iTunes, where you can tailor your choice to what fits you—than one size fits all.
More people are concerned about the production of food products. They want to know what the chickens and cows eat and how they’re treated. The old model was to take processed food and add some healthy ingredient and charge a premium price. But consumers are increasingly saying they don’t want the processed food to begin with. Rather than adding in something healthy, it’s better to start with a product that’s healthy at the farm level.
What we’re experiencing is a change in values. Once you’ve seen a documentary likeThe Future of Food or Food, Inc. and what goes on inside the industrial food system, you can’t close the barn door. We’re becoming a more open society, driven by vast social networks of empowered self-publishers, sharing information with friends and others like ourselves.
You can’t bully or deceive buyers today and expect to get away with it. The Internet has changed all that. We can share knowledge. People are beginning to understand that cheap food brings with it expensive healthcare.
We’re seeing people take back power and proactively seek health and happiness. It’s an exciting time to be living in.
Ken Whitman is the president of Natural Vitality and publisher of Organic Connections. This piece was originally published in the September/October issue of Organic Connections.
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