18 Jun 2012
Recently, there has been a lot of criticism of the food industry (much of it is deserved), implicating them as the cause of the obesity epidemic in the United States. Specifically, critics have pointed to the fact that modern packaged foods have become laden with all sorts of non-nutritive ingredients including sugar, fat, salt and preservatives.
How we got from consuming basic foods harvested close to home to today’s diet of mass produced food with complex recipes created by “food scientists” is a long story, but it is fundamentally one of economics. Producing food at mass scale for the purpose of feeding troops far from home started a trend that is now driven by industry’s need to increase shareholder value.
At the outset, I don’t believe the policymakers in government or the captains of industry had evil intent in making the change, but over time, incremental decisions took a proverbial “slice off the salami” of quality until one day there was nothing left – a Lunchables pack sat on my desk (unrefrigerated) for 12 months with little visible change.
Interestingly, as this drive to lower quality progressed, so too did advancements in another economic driver in food costs and supply chain efficiencies. Delivering products in less time has been a boon to the food industry and its shareholders. The irony is that with improvements in the supply chain, many of the food ingredients that were added to begin with were no longer required.
Take a look at most any product in the store today and you will probably find some form of preservative or stabilizer. Also, take a look at your own shopping habits and if you are like most Americans, you shop for food at least 3 times per week.
Working “upstream” you will find that the best grocery operators turn their inventory quickly and maintain about a 2 week supply in their warehouses. Manufactures don’t want to sit on a lot of product either, which leads to producing as frequently as possible in order to hold onto their cash. Freight carriers have cut delivery times and increased their drop frequency (get up early and check out how many trucks are pulling up to the loading dock at your local grocer).
Still, most packaged foods are designed for shelf-life of 12 months (although most will last considerably longer). Today less than half that time would suffice and we could probably eliminate a number of less healthy ingredients from the foods we eat. At Attune Foods, we don’t use any preservatives in our foods because we believe that “Fresh” in food is always better. Let’s harvest supply-efficiency to create healthier foods that don’t just look the part.
RobCheck out my latest posts here