The PJ Tatler

Are Shoppers Abandoning Corporate Food in Favor of Organic, Local Products?

USA Today reports on the growing trend of consumers abandoning corporate, processed food in favor of local and organic nutrition.

“The Lower Hudson Valley has seen an increase in farmers markets — 30 in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam this year, up from 10 in 2001, the first year The Journal News started keeping track.”

And not only is the marketplace for organic, local food expanding, but corporate food companies are eliminating questionable ingredients from their own food selections. “Global food companies like Kraft Foods, which has offices in Tarrytown, and Mondelez International, a snack company formerly part of Kraft, are feeling the pinch. This week, General Mills made the decision to remove artificial flavors and colors from the last 40% of its packaged cereals in response to customer demands.”

I’d like to point out that these changes stem from the free market and not from any government-imposed “regulation.”

Packaged food and beverage companies are showing a drop in revenue based on the changing tastes of consumers. “Companies included in the Russell 3000 index were analyzed showing lower profits than in 2013, in the U.S. and Canadian marketplace. Mondelez was at the top of the list with a 10.2% loss.”

But why?

“I think there’s so much more coverage of what’s in our food and GMO scandals people are unsure of the bigger packaged food companies,” said Suzanne Barish of Rockland Farm Alliance, a group dedicated to preserving Rockland County farmland. “I think five years ago people weren’t aware of organic and sustainable, but now there’s a cultural shift.”

Some “organic” food is showing up in big box grocery stores. Corporate food giants have purchased smaller organic-branded companies and many consumers are unaware they are purchasing big corporate products. For example, Mondelez, the maker of Triscuits and Ritz, also owns Enjoy Life Foods, featuring Amy’s Kitchen, an organic convenience food company.  You can see which corporations own these smaller, organic-branded companies here.

One issue facing consumers and businesses catering to the “buy local” trend is the regulation. “Buying local is very difficult to track, because there’s no way to aggregate the numbers,” said Liana Hoodes, the founding director of National Organic Coalition (NOC), a national alliance supporting farmers, ranchers, environmentalists and consumers involved in organic agriculture. “It’s because anyone can call themselves local.”

I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the federal government jumps into that fray.