Efficiency is the trend in food that has been going on since 1870, the year when the percentage of farmers went from 58% to 47%, a middling purifier was invented for superior flour (more food processing) and weather forecasts were sent via telegram. In 1872, many fruits and vegetables were improved through better agricultural methods. And in 1874 margarine was produced and the pressure cooker was invented.1
Food manufacturers want higher sales and profits – they have done this through decadent calorie- dense foods and many fads: the fat-free fad, the carbs-are-bad fad, the huge-portions-for-better-value fad, more-calcium foods, lower-trans-fat foods and now the “restaurant is in your kitchen” trend.
Fast food companies know that we love to have dinner in the car in 5 minutes. Grocers and other food retailers want to increase sales and optimize their operations.
Here are market “efficiency” trends for food that we feel will continue along with our caveats:
All retail food stores seek to bring the restaurant into the home – we feel that is the largest trend that is here to stay. You can find many foods that are prepared. Read food labels to avoid ones high in fat and salt . The produce aisle has quite a few more “already prepared items”; “steam in the bag” produce has become more popular with more choices.
Frozen foods, ethnic foods and private labels foods are more numerous. Read food labels to find choices low in fat and sodium.
Walmart is the largest seller of groceries (WSJ Nov 2010). The superstores offer value, good selection and the opportunity to one stop shop. They also put pressure on grocery stores to keep prices lower. Shop at Walmart and other discount stores and stock up on healthy pantry items.
Raw ingredients are scarcer. Try to find a box of barley, whole oats or fresh yeast. Ricotta cheese was nowhere to be found in one store we shopped. Whole heads of lettuce are now way outnumbered by bags of lettuce. Less popular vegetables like endive, kale, beets and leeks are missing or very low in number in common stores. Farmer’s markets are a wonderful option for more fresh veggies.
“Go Local” might be a favorite topic among food editors but it is not apparent in grocery stores where items are available year round for good prices. We just bought berries for a lower price than what we paid in summer and they are every bit as fresh and delicious.
Food manufacturers are still wooing consumers with the lures of “extra nutrition” and “extra convenience” with package claims and flavorful offerings. “Nutrition” has become a convoluted claim with bits of this and bits of that to sell a food, not help someone manage a whole diet. Read the back of the package for what is in your food, not the marketing on the front.
Many consumers are “under water” with their nutrition and overall diet. They are getting too many calories but very little fiber or nutrients for long-term health and weight control (health.gov). We do not need acai juice, special antioxidants, phytochemicals or probiotics. We need more fruits and vegetables, cooked whole grains, beans/legumes and skim dairy which all adds up to more fiber and fewer calories.
Stephanie Ronco has been editing in a professional capacity for the past 10 years. In addition to her work as an editor, Ronco has also served as a ghostwriter and writing tutor. A voracious reader, Ronco loves watching language evolve and change. When she’s not delving into her latest project, Ronco can be found teaching acting classes, performing in community theater, or sailing with her husband.