Hans Taparia, NYU business professor and entrepreneur, and Pamela Koch, executive director of the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy at Columbia University, contributed an op-ed to last Sunday’s New York Times: “A Seismic Shift in How People Eat”. We noticed it on Twitter after Michael Pollan shared it and Sam Kass said it was the “best op-ed [he’s] read in the NYT on food in a long time”.
Taparia and Koch report that eating habits are changing across the country. We’ve been feeling that way too, from our first hand experiences with LET um EAT and in all the headlines we read (including this article from The Guardian from back in June).
Taparia and Koch offer more proof; check out these statistics:
- per capita soda sales are down 25% since 1998, mostly replaced by water
- sales of packaged cereals are down over 25% since 2000, with yogurt and granola taking their place
- sales of fresh prepared foods have grown nearly 30% since 2009
- among children and young adults per capita vegetable consumption is up 10% over the past 5 years
Consumer preferences and buying behaviors are affecting big business: people are walking away from America’s most iconic food brands. Food manufacturers and fast food companies are changing their ways in an attempt to save themselves:
- General Mills will drop all artificial colors and flavors from its cereals. They’ve also introduced more than 200 new products like Cheerios Protein and Betty Crocker gluten-free cookie mix, to respond to consumer demand
- Perdue, Tyson and Foster Farm are limiting the use of antibiotics in their chicken
- Kraft will drop artificial dyes from its mac and cheese
- Hershey’s is going to start using ingredients that are “simple and easy to understand” like “fresh milk from local farms, roasted California almonds, cocoa beans and sugar”
While these companies seem to be stepping in the right direction, Taparia and Koch don’t think these changes will be enough: the companies will need to fundamentally change their approach or they are going to become irrelevant and get beat out entirely. It’s already happening: Sweetgreen, a fast food salad restaurant, is taking market share from traditional chains; Amy’s Kitchen and Kind bars now occupy shelf space once dominated by Nestle’s Lean Cuisine and Mars.
We live in interesting times, indeed. And we can’t wait to see how things are going to shake out.