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Big Food companies respond to demand for better

The Guardian released an encouraging article asking “Is the era of Big Food coming to an end?”, about how rising consumer awareness and demand for local, healthy ingredients is affecting the big companies.

Here are some highlights that prove, power is in the choices we make every day and the companies that control our food system have to respond to what we demand.

  • Food giant Kellogg is removing the genetically modified ingredients from its Kashi Golean cereals.
  • Competitor ConAgra is launching a line of minimally processed frozen meals under the brand name Healthy Choice Simply.
  • General Mills last fall snapped up Annie’s, a popular brand of organic pastas, snacks and condiments.
  • Kellogg acquired whole-grains-focused Kashi in 2000, the same year General Mills bought organic food company Small Planet Foods, which produces Cascadian Farms vegetables and Muir Glen tomatoes.
  • The trend shows no signs of slowing, with plenty of examples of big companies redoubling their investments in healthy food initiatives.
  • Nestlé USA announced last month that it will stop using artificial colors in its chocolates by the end of 2015.
  • ConAgra has been expanding its “all-natural, gourmet-inspired” Alexia brand, adding frozen vegetables, side dishes and breads to the line. Campbell’s launched an organic soup line last month, and Morrison, in her remarks at the analyst conference, promised an investment in “packaged fresh” foods.
  • In remarks at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in February, Campbell’s CEO Denise Morrison said: “we are also confronting profound shifts in consumers’ preferences and priorities with respect to food”, pointing to an “explosion of interest in fresh foods” and “a mounting distrust of so-called Big Food”.
  • Sales on the perimeter of the supermarket, where fresh produce, meat and dairy are generally sold, have risen about 5% over the last year, while sales of the more processed and packaged items sold in the aisles have increased only 1%, says Erin Lash, food industry analyst for investment research firm Morningstar.
  • “Consumers just want to overall feel like they are eating healthier,” Lash says. “That’s one of the biggest trends, especially in the US.”

As consumer demand for local, organic and fresh foods continues to grow, the enormous multinational firms that are collectively being called Big Food are in the position of having to rework, reshape and reimagine themselves. – The Guardian

While, The Guardian’s article sets a clear tone that these small changes are indeed encouraging, it points out that the still strong consumer need for convenient foods means the power and profits of the large food companies remains strong. For now.


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