Tag Archives: Fast Food

A Sustainable Recipe for America

It isn’t often that I read a review that makes me want to get up and buy a book, but I just read one of the exceptions.

Paula Crossfields’ Civil Eats review on Jill Richardson’s Recipe for America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It describes an intelligent and informed investigation of why sustainable food should be everyone’s priority.

Review Excerpt: “Like a handbook for the sustainable advocate in training, Recipe for America feels like a one-on-one session with a pro in the trenches. It gives the reader the tools they need to be up-to-date on the state of the food movement, the pending legislation and state of the political process as it pertains to food. So pick up a copy, and join the ranks. The good food movement needs YOU!”

This call to action is not about joining yet another “movement.” To me, its about understanding the importance and impact of our everyday food decisions, which Recipe for America appears to spell out in compelling terms, e.g.,:

Book Excerpt: “In the end, the numerous problems in our food system — pollution, human rights abuses, poor food safety, the breakdown of rural communities, the decline in our health — are hardly random. Instead, they stem from a common thread of industrialization, which occurred primarily over the second half of the twentieth century.

The challenge of slowing, then reversing, industrial food’s death grip on American consumers becomes clear when you consider how American’s shifting calories to sustainable foods would impact bottom lines.

According to Paul Roberts in The End of Food, our food system was generating 4,000 calories per person in 2000 (expect it is even higher today), up from 3,100 calories in 1950, already more calories than what an average individual needs.  People are consuming too much food, especially highly-processed types. On that point, Mr. Roberts cites that for every 100 calorie reduction in the American diet, industrial food companies will lose over $30 billion dollars per year. If we were to reset calories at 1950 levels, industrial food would lose over a quarter trillion dollars every year. Throw on top of that a recommend shift toward sustainable foods (i.e., not manufactured, highly processed foodlike substances), and you can see a double whammy of historic proportions forming.

Clearly, industrial food will not change on its own. It can’t afford to if it wants to survive as is.  Therefore, America’s consumers need to follow Ms. Richardson’s sound advice to help force the necessary changes:

Review Excerpt: But the greatest barrier of all, she writes, may be the lack of recognition on the part of the government that sustainable agriculture practices are superior to industrial agriculture, and for that to change, we need public outcry.

Each one of us can get a great jump on doing that by reading Recipe for America, becoming informed and knowledgeable, and crying out for change!

In the meantime, do what you can to vote with your dollars. Buy sustainable. Buy organic. Buy local/regional.

O’Donalds: The Organic McDonald’s

The following post is a tribute to my nine year old son.

On Father’s Day this year he gave me his plan for a new “fast food” chain to replace McDonald’s.  Maybe living in the same house with a dad that has just a drop of sustainable food on his mind inspired him, but I think it mostly had to do with the creative force that is childhood.

Here is his plan in its entirety:

O’donalds – the organic Mcdonalds

The first O’donalds would open in Burlington, Vermont. It would use only local and organic food, and would not use high fructose corn syrup. The items on the menu would come and go depending on the season. It would only acept food from local farmers within 100 miles. It would only purchase cheese from companies that didn’t use RBGH. It would have soups and salads year round, and sandwiches too. It would sell soda’s that did not contain high fructose corn syrup. Organic drinks replace Coke’s, and Dr.Pepper. Organic root beer would be sold.

Our restaurants will open in cities, such as New York City and Boston. Food will not be shipped from across the country, or will it be frozen and then reheated.

Our key word is organic. We will have panini sandwiches that are made out of homemade bread and pesto. Our soups and pastas will be delicious. We will have chocolate-chip, oatmeal and peanut butter cookies for dessert.

Now lets look at the building design. It would be a medium-sized building, with glass windows and booths with neon green seats and white tables. A shiny chandiler would be on the ceiling. Also, you could eat outside!

The pesto would be a yummy lemon balm pesto, and O’Donalds would have a huge garden within a 100 mile radius. We would have sundaes with organic root beer, homemade vanilla ice cream with a bit of Vermont whipped cream. Yum.

Whether its my son or daughters (have three), or yours, we should be engaging them in discussions about where our food comes from, as well as how it is grown, processed and sold. When time (and patience) permits, sit down to find a yummy recipe to make for dinner, take them shopping and talk about making choices (e.g., conventional or organic produce), and work together preparing and cooking meals.

This has been the standard practice in our home since we had our first child over 13 years ago. Clearly, the things we talk about, the things we value, and the actions we take are sinking in.

Rob Smart is a food entrepreneur focusing on regional food systems and consumer retail experiences. He blogs on alternative food systems at Every Kitchen Table and Civil Eats (guest blogger), and micro-blogs on Twitter as Jambutter.

Food Marketing: Impacts on Consumer Choice

I keep hearing people say that advertising doesn’t drive demand for certain, mostly highly processed food products. They claim that everyone has the freedom to choose. That no one is holding a gun to their head to eat Twinkees or Doritos.

Granted, most of the people I’m hearing this from are defending a position in today’s industrial food system that will likely be negatively impacted if status quo shifts, which partially explains the defensive reactions.

In fairness to them, and to make sure that everything I learned in business school and nearly 20 years of marketing, I found data to help people better understand the massive role advertising plays in building demand. Consider the following information from AdvertisingAge’s Marketer Tree 2009 survey (2008 data), which includes the more popular brands these dollars are supporting.

Food Manufacturers

  • Unilever: $2.4 billion on advertising; $59.6 billion in sales (Bertolli, Slim-Fast, Hellman’s, Ragu, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, Bryers, Klondick, Ben & Jerry’s)
  • Kraft Foods: $1.3 billion on advertising; $42.2 billion in sales (Oscar Mayer, Oreos, DiGiorno, Ritz, Chips Ahoy, Lunchables, Nabisco, Kool-Aid, Cool Whip)
  • PepsiCo: $1.3 billion on advertising; $43.3 billion in sales (Gatorade, Quaker, Lays, Tropicana, Tostitos, Sun Chips, Doritos, Cheetos, Frito-Lay, Fritos)
  • Nestle: $1.2 billion on advertising; $101.8 billion in sales (yes, >$100 billion!; Stouffer’s, Lean Cuisine, Juicy Juice, Hot Pockets)
  • General Mills: $1.2 billion on advertising; $13.7 billion in sales (Yoplait, Pillsbury, Progresso, Betty Crocker, Totino’s, various cereals)
  • Kellogg Co.: $820 million on advertising; $12.8 billion in sales (various cereals, Eggo, Cheez-It, Pop-Tarts, Town House)
  • Coca-Cola Co.: $752 million on advertising; $32.0 billion in sales (Minute Maid, Simply, Powerade, Sprite, Fuze)
  • Campbell Soup Co.: $711 million on advertising; $8.0 billion in sales (Pepperidge Farms, Swanson, Pace, Prego)
  • ConAgra Foods: $352 million on advertising; $11.6 billion in sales (Healthy Choice, Hunt’s, Reddi-Whip, Pam)

Food Retailers/Supermarkets

  • Wal-Mart: $1.7 billion on advertising; $401 billion in sales (yes, sales >$400 billion)
  • Kroger Co.: $532 million on advertising; $76 billion in sales
  • Safeway: $420 million on advertising; $44 billion in sales

Leading Fast Food Companies

  • McDonald’s: $1.2 billion on advertising; $23.5 billion in sales
  • YUM Brands: $960 million on advertising; $11.3 billion in sales (KFC, Long John Silver’s, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell)
  • Wendy’s/Arby’s: $453 million on advertising; $3.6 billion in sales

Looking at this list and considering the incredibly sophisticated advertising and marketing methodologies being employed by these companies and their respective ad agencies, are there still questions regarding the huge influence this has on “choice?”

Yes, people have free wills and Constitutional freedoms, but we’re also highly susceptible to outside influences, e.g., >$15.o billion spent by these companies to build profitable demand for products (see Billion Dollar Club below for list of Top 100 food companies).

To suggest otherwise is naive or, worse, deceiving.

Related Information:

Rob Smart is a food entrepreneur focusing on regional food systems and consumer retail experiences. He blogs on alternative food systems at Every Kitchen Table and Civil Eats (guest blogger), and micro-blogs on Twitter as Jambutter.