for original article: www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/opinion/a-seismic-shift-in-how-people-eat.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&_r=0
By HANS TAPARIA and PAMELA KOCH NOV. 6, 2015
IT’S easy to make fun of people in big cities for their obsession
with gluten, or chia seeds, or cleanses.
But urbanites are not the only ones turning away from the products created by big food companies. Eating habits are changing across the country and food companies are struggling to keep up.
General Mills will drop all artificial colors and flavors from its cereals. Perdue, Tyson and Foster Farm have begun to limit the use of antibiotics in their chicken. Kraft declared it was dropping artificial dyes from its macaroni and cheese. Hershey’s will begin to move away from ingredients such as the emulsifier polyglycerol polyricinoleate to “simple and easy-to-understand ingredients” like “fresh milk from local farms, roasted California almonds, cocoa beans and sugar.”
Those announcements reflect a new reality: Consumers are walking away from America’s most iconic food brands. Big food manufacturers are reacting by cleaning up their ingredient labels, acquiring healthier brands and coming out with a prodigious array of new products. Last year, General Mills purchased the organic pasta maker Annie’s Homegrown for $820 million — a price that was over four times the company’s revenues, likening it to valuations more often seen in Silicon Valley. The company alsointroduced more than 200 new products, ranging from Cheerios Protein to Betty Crocker gluten-free cookie mix, to capitalize on the latest consumer fads.
Food companies are moving in the right direction, but it won’t be enough to save them. If they are to survive changes in eating habits, they need a fundamental shift in their approach.
The food movement over the past couple of decades has substantially altered consumer behavior and reshaped the competitive landscape. Chains like Sweetgreen, a salad purveyor, are grabbing market share from traditional fast food companies. Brands such as Amy’s Kitchen, with its organic products, and Kind bars are taking some of the space on shelves once consumed by Nestlé’s Lean Cuisine and Mars.
For the large established food companies, this is having disastrous consequences. Per capita soda sales are down 25 percent since 1998, mostly replaced by water. Orange juice, a drink once seen as an important part of a healthy breakfast, has seen per capita consumption drop 45 percent in the same period. It is now more correctly considered a serious carrier of free sugar, stripped of its natural fibers. Sales of packaged cereals, also heavily sugar-laden, are down over 25 percent since 2000, with yogurt and granola taking their place. Frozen dinner sales are down nearly 12 percent from 2007 to 2013. Sales per outlet at McDonald’s have been on a downward spiral for nearly three years, with no end in sight.
To survive, the food industry will need more than its current bag of tricks. There is a consumer shift at play that calls into question the reason packaged foods exist. There was a time when consumers used to walk through every aisle of the grocery store, but today much of their time is being spent in the perimeter of the store with its vast collection of fresh products — raw produce, meats, bakery items and fresh prepared foods. Sales of fresh prepared foods have grown nearly 30 percent since 2009, while sales of center-of-store packaged goods have started to fall. Sales of raw fruits and vegetables are also growing — among children and young adults, per capita consumption of vegetables is up 10 percent over the past five years.
The outlook for the center of the store is so glum that industry insiders have begun to refer to that space as the morgue. For consumers today, packaged goods conjure up the image of foods stripped of their nutrition and loaded with sugar. Also, decades of deceptive marketing, corporate-sponsored research and government lobbying have left large food companies with brands that are fast becoming liabilities. According to one recent survey, 42 percent of millennial consumers, ages 20 to 37, don’t trust large food companies, compared with 18 percent of non-millennial consumers who feel that way.
Food companies can’t merely tinker. Nor will acquisition-driven strategies prove sufficient, because most acquisitions are too small to shift fortunes quickly. Acquired brands such as Annie’s Homegrown, Happy Baby and Honest Tea account for 1 percent or less of their buyers’ revenues. Moreover, these brands, along with their missions and culture, tend to get quickly lost in the sales and marketing machine of big food companies. It is easy for them to get orphaned.
For legacy food companies to have any hope of survival, they will have to make bold changes in their core product offerings. Companies will have to drastically cut sugar; process less; go local and organic; use more fruits, vegetables and other whole foods; and develop fresh offerings. General Mills needs to do more than just drop the artificial ingredients from Trix. It needs to drop the sugar substantially, move to 100 percent whole grains, and increase ingredient diversity by expanding to other grains besides corn. Instead of throwing good money after bad for its lagging frozen products, Nestlé, which is investing in a new $50 million frozen research and development facility, should introduce a range of healthy, fresh prepared meals for deli counters across the country.
McDonalds needs to do more than use antibiotic-free chicken. The back of the house for its 36,000 restaurants currently looks like a mini-factory serving fried frozen patties and french fries. It needs to look more like a kitchen serving freshly prepared meals with locally sourced vegetables and grains — and it still needs to taste great and be affordable.
These changes would require a complete overhaul of their supply chains, major organizational restructuring and billions of dollars of investment, but these corporations have the resources. It may be their last chance.
Hans Taparia, an assistant professor at the New York University Stern School of Business, co-founded and partially owns an organic food business. Pamela Koch is executive director of the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on November 8, 2015, on page SR4 of the New York edition with the headline: Real Food Challenges the Food Industry
When I open the refrigerator at the end of the week, my mood can turn sweet or sour. Either I get a feeling of immense pleasure and satisfaction when I see that I have used up almost all of the food I bought the previous weekend, or I feel disappointed with myself when I toss a head of broccoli that has turned brown into the compost bin or throw out salsa that grew mold before we finished it.
Here’s how I try to keep my mood – and food – from souring. Each weekend I:
I talk to people all the time who are disgusted by the amount of food they throw out each week and feel angst about the money that quickly adds up on each trip to the grocery store.
Studies show that in the US, we waste from 25 – 40% of the food that is produced, packaged, shipped, and purchased. Food waste costs the average American family $1,365 – $2,275 each year! That’s enough money to take a vacation or beef up our kids’ college funds. The effect of all of this waste on our climate is staggering – both in terms of water wasted to produce the food and carbon dioxide emissions from transporting and disposing of food.
What if we look at using up the food we buy and only buying what we need not only as a way to save money and protect the planet, but also as a practical opportunity to teach our kids flexibility, problem solving, and delayed gratification?
5 Ways to Reduce Food Waste
What can you do this week to reduce your family’s food waste? Please make a commitment and share your ideas below.
Aviva Goldfarb struggled like many busy moms to put a nutritious dinner on the table for her family amidst the chaos of daily life. That led to her founding The Six O’Clock Scramble, an online dinner planning solution for busy parents. She is a Today Show and Washington Post contributor, author of the acclaimed Six O’Clock Scramble cookbooks, and frequently appears in major national media such as The Katie Couric Show, Real Simple, and Prevention magazine.
The Public Health Ramifications of GMOs and Herbicides
By Dr. Mercola
On August 20, 2015, Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., and Charles Benbrook, Ph.D. published a paper1,2 in the one of the most prestigious medical journals, theNew England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) on the topic of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), herbicides, and public health, noting that:
The ‘Answer’ to Herbicide Resistance Is Bound to Make Food Increasingly ToxicThe authors recount how genetically engineered (GE) herbicide-resistant crops have led to a dramatic increase in herbicide application due to mounting resistance among weeds.
They then go on to argue that the science and risk assessment of the next-generation of GE crops — touted as the “answer” to growing resistance — is... read more
and for another article:
What is so special about organic food?
If you’re reading this, than you most likely know by now that all my recipes indicate “organic” on pretty much every ingredient. Do you wonder why? Is it because I’m trying to make my recipes fancier than they are?
The answer is no. It is simply because it’s healthier and it tastes better. It’s better for us, our kids, the animals and the planet. How, you wonder?
This is a subject that is dear to my heart and I could spend several weeks talking about it (in fact, I’m sure I’ll regularly have articles talking about this, because it is a very important matter that concerns us all), but for today, I will try to keep it simple and keep this article to a minimum. My goal is not to drown everyone with information!
Here’s a drop-down-to-basic list:
The principles behind organic production are designed to promote healthy soil and biological biodiversity; to reduce pollution; and to reduce, recycle, and reuse whenever possible. Generally, banned items and processes include
.............................................. read more
reprinted from the Vineyard Gazette: Community Groceries Program Helping Those in Need
Cronig’s Market has launched a new program to provide families in need with fresh produce and other items not commonly available in food pantries. Cronig’s has become the second market in the country to adopt the program, which started in the Berkshires last year.
The Community Groceries Program, originally developed by students at Williams College, is based on the model of “suspended coffees,” where cafe patrons can pick up the tab for future patrons in need. When checking out at either of the two main Cronig’s locations — in Vineyard Haven and West Tisbury — shoppers can ask the cashier to add one of six items to their bill. Once enough items are registered, special coupons are printed and distributed to families through Island food networks.
According to the Vineyard Committee on Hunger, more than 200 Island families require food assistance to get through the winter. Several local initiatives, including Serving Hands, a year-round food distribution service supplied by the Greater Boston Food Bank, and the Island Food Pantry, are working to address the problem.
“What we wanted to do was supplement what’s available already, with our food distribution programs, with items that were harder to come by and healthier,” said Jessica Roddy, a former Slow Food MV member who led the effort to bring community groceries to the Vineyard.
The six items are olive oil, frozen strawberries, spinach, two-percent milk, broccoli and pasta. All but the olive oil are organic. Store owner Steve Bernier said the selection will likely change over time.
Mr. Bernier said the biggest challenge is getting the word out to the community, especially amid the summer rush, when people are eager to do their shopping quickly and avoid the crowds. “Right now it’s too frantic, so we need some help with letting people know what they can do to help others,” he said. The first batch of coupons will likely go out in the fall.
Slow Food MV heard about the program shortly after its debut at Wild Oats Market in Williamstown last spring. Adopting the program for the Vineyard required a good deal of preparation, including staff training, educational materials and store displays. But Cronig’s had been receptive to the idea. “They’ve always been really generous and very much interested in doing this sort of work,” Ms. Roddy said. She hoped the program would eventually expand to other Island markets as well.
Meg Richardson, a member of Kinetic, the Williams College student group that conceived of the idea, said Cronig’s was the first market to manage the program on its own. Originally it was called Suspended Groceries. “We had been kind of pushing it in a lot of different places, but Cronig’s actually reached out to us first,” she said. “So that was really exciting.” Similar programs are now taking root in Anchorage, Alaska, and Great Barrington.
“The dream is that one day everyone will know what community groceries or suspended groceries means and it will be a part of your routine,” Ms. Richardson said. “When you go to the grocery store, you just automatically think of others who might need some groceries. . . . But we’ll keep working to implement it in as many small stores as we can."
from FoodTank.org :
We Grow Farmers: Interview with the Center for Land-Based Learning
The aging population of farmers is turning into a food security crisis. At the Center for Land-Based Learning in California, the organization is taking on this challenge by training new farmers at their California Farm Academy. Food Tank discussed the importance of new farmer training with Executive Director Mary Kimball and Program Director Jennifer Taylor.
Food Tank (FT): What was the inspiration for the California Farm Academy?
Mary Kimball (MK): Center for Land-Based Learning has been running programs for youth in sustainable agriculture, specifically for high school students, since 1993. We started working with a beginning farmer eight years ago. His name is Toby Hastings, of Free Spirit Farm. For the full article, go to Food Tank
our dialogue comes from many places
from on-line sources to guest writers to island personalities.
November: reducing food waste tips
September: What's so special about organic food?
August: helping island neighbors in need with Community Groceries