Packaged, so-called “all-natural” foods. They’re coming at you — fast and strong. As this recent article in the Chicago Tribune points out, all the big players in processed food manufacturing are jumping on the bandwagon of “all-natural” and “healthy” foods:
The companies that introduced products such as Doritos, Miracle Whip, Butterfinger and the venti caramel Frappuccino now maintain that the future lies in the health and wellness category. A wave of products expected to hit grocery stores in the next year will raise the ante for shoppers’ attention and compete for their trust. What constitutes “healthy” will ultimately be decided by consumers at the cash register.
Apparently the big wigs are starting to notice that health-conscious consumers are chipping away at their market share. So, they’re making changes. They’re making processed foods “healthier” in the hopes of appealing to this growing segment of the population with the allure of products that “align with organic principles” without actually carrying the heavy price tag of organics.
While I’m glad that the average American is starting to demand healthier food options, I’m actually laughing at the food industry’s response (in a sad, “I-pity-you” sort of way):
In a recent interview, Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke expressed concern about the demonization of food in America.
“We are thinking increasingly in wrong dimensions where we see food as bad, and in French they have an expression, ‘le poison c’est la dose,’ and you would say, ‘the poison is the quantity,’” he said, simultaneously acknowledging that Nestle has “a role to play” in responsible eating.
And while the formula for profitable health food has yet to be discovered, Bulcke maintains that it can be done. Basically, he said, the process is about making “food pleasurable with more goodies and less baddies.” And if that can be accomplished, he said, healthy eating will also be a profitable business. (source)
Of course, as businessmen, it’s all about profit — about discovering the formula for profitable health food. It’s about figuring out a way for the packaged food industry to cash in on this growing trend towards more natural foods.
NEWSFLASH, Mr. Bulcke: IT’S NOT POSSIBLE. By definition, a packaged food that is cheap enough to be manufactured in bulk, durable enough to be shipped across the country or around the world, and stable enough to last for weeks, months, or even years on shelves IS NOT “NATURAL.”
Real Food decomposes. As Michael Pollan has pointed out on numerous occassions, there’s a reason why the Twinkie on his shelf is still as fluffy and soft today as it was more than 2 years ago when he first pulled it out of its packaging. It’s not food! If the bacteria and other microbial life on this planet won’t eat it, neither should we.
Mr. Bulcke says people like me “see food as bad.” Nope. People like me see FAKE FOOD as bad — the kind he manufactures and sells.
Ultimately the Chicago Tribune article points out that the definition of “healthy” is up for grabs. Is it reducing salt? Lowering fat? Reducing ingredients? Avoiding artificial-ingredients so we can slap an “all-natural” label on something?
And therein lies the flaw behind all packaged and processed food production — this belief that with a judicious application of food science, we can actually manufacture fake foods to make them healthier than the real thing.
While I’m ecstatic that the movement towards Real Food has gone mainstream enough to warrant an industry response like this, I’m also saddened that the big food manufacturers don’t really have any hope of getting the underlying message. We want Real Food! Not edible food-like substances created in laboratories instead of kitchens.
So, what will your response be to the billions of dollars worth of “all-natural” and “healthy” packaged foods being introduced by PepsiCo, Kraft, Starbucks, and Nestle be this coming year? Will you be thankful that you can finally get a “healthier” version of your favorite junk foods? Will you avoid the packaged foods like the plague?
(photo by Bill Stevenson)