Consumers Demand It.
Some companies are accepting and meeting consumer demands for better food. Yet, others are still fighting to suggest their food isn’t as bad as you think or are expanding their criteria to be able to meet consumer demand.
Take Coca-Cola, which was recently called out for funding a scientific non-profit group, Global Energy Balance Network, to combat the belief that soda is bad for us. Instead, the organization advocates exercise as the antidote to being overweight, not eliminating soda from one’s diet. Anahad O’Connor wrote a great article on this in The New York Times.
You might expect such behavior from a soda manufacturer, but you wouldn’t expect similar behavior from Whole Foods, the claimed healthiest grocery store in America. While Whole Foods helped set the standards for better food, especially championing organic, now with increased competition for organic food supplies, the company has implemented a new rating system that makes conventionally-grown produce appear as acceptable as the organic produce it used to champion. The farmers that have supplied Whole Foods over the years are taking exception to this new program, feeling as if Whole Foods is abandoning its original premise that organic was better and putting the marketing onus on the farmer to still champion the cause. From a consumer perspective, it’s a fine line: those less savvy shoppers might not care and will be happier with the lower price points Whole Foods is able to offer; for the company’s loyalists, they might find such tactics to be dishonest and start to distrust the retailer. The company is trading off business realities against potential damage to Whole Foods’ brand.
Others in the food industry have seen enough of a shift in the market to be taking opposite actions. Of note, in May of this year, Fortune magazine reported that the food industry must reinvent itself after the top 25 U.S. food and beverage companies lost $18 billion in market share in the last six years. Clearly, the consumer is voting with their dollar and choosing other alternatives than traditional mainstream foods.
Some companies are meeting this demand and raising their standards, stepping up to better the food we put into our bodies:
- Chipotle, which has long been committed to better ingredients, back in April went GMO-free, the first restaurant to do so.
- Panera Bread is now eliminating a number of ingredients from its recipes, primarily artificial ingredients and sweeteners. Like Chipotle, however, the sodas it has on tap will continue to be the traditional varieties.
- As part of the company’s reinvention, Campbell’s will be eliminating artificial flavors and colors from its North American products by the year 2018.
The Industry Forecast: Help me meet the demand for higher food quality without lowering standards.
Aubrey, Allison. “Panera Is The Latest To Drop Artificial Ingredients From Its Food,” NPR, May 6, 2015.
Che, Jenny. “Campbell Soup Will Cut Artificial Ingredients From Its Foods,” Huffington Post, July 23, 2015. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/campbell-soup-artificial-ingredients_55b15a5ee4b0224d8831945e
Kowitt, Beth. “Special Report: The war on big food,” Fortune, May 21, 2015. http://fortune.com/2015/05/21/the-war-on-big-food/
O’Connor, Anahad. “Coca-Cola Funds Scientists Who Shift Blame for Obesity Away From Bad Diets,” The New York Times, August 9, 2015. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com//2015/08/09/coca-cola-funds-scientists-who-shift-blame-for-obesity-away-from-bad-diets/
Strom, Stephanie. “Chipotle to Stop Using Genetically Altered Ingredients,” The New York Times, April 26, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/27/business/chipotle-to-stop-serving-genetically-altered-food.html
Strom, Stephanie. “Organic Farmers Object to Whole Foods Rating System,” The New York Times, June 12, 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/13/business/organic-farmers-object-to-whole-foods-rating-system.html