How “Big Food” Survives

The Lempert Report
June 03, 2016

There is a lot of talk these days about how “big food” is bad. Is it True?

There is a lot of talk these days about how “Big Food” is bad. Bad for the environment. Bad for our health. And bad for our kids. Without “Big Food”, and the large scale production facilities that they created to reduce costs and keep food prices as low as possible some argue, millions of people around the world would have starved to death. 

The Millennials are leading the way with their passion for foods – to have more free-from ingredient statements and claims, disclosure of animal welfare practices, understanding where our food comes from and how it is produced and a clear sense of the business practices of the brands they buy. We are seeing an unprecedented change, and quickly, as all food companies scurry to change their recipes and the way they do business. 

A recent column on Five Actions Big Food Can Take Today To Regain Consumer Trust” written by Nancy Fink Huehnergarth, offers just how the industry can be part of the solution: 

  • 1 Stop fighting proposed nutrition labeling measures. When the food industry fights tooth and nail to hide critical information from the consumer, it doesn’t engender trust. She warns that fighting against labeling and consumer education legislation makes the industry look like it has something to hide.  
  • 2 Stop marketing to children. She shares that it is unfair, since children don’t have the capacity to understand the persuasive intent of marketing, it often leads to epic battles as kids whine and beg for unhealthy food products that have been marketed directly to them.  
  • 3 Invest in healthy, fresh food production. Campbell’s, Coca Cola and General Mills are focused on food innovation, particularly in response to growing demand for organic and natural options. She predicts consumers will be moving to healthier, whole food snacking (e.g., fruits, vegetables, low-sugar yogurt).
  • 4 Stop marketing unhealthy foods as healthy with misleading claims: She writes that consumers are beginning to grasp that many of these “healthwashing” claims are bogus and that a bag of snack chips with “No Artificial Colors” or “Now With Vitamin C,” is still an unhealthy choice.  
  • 5 Stop funding health, medical, and community organizations, as well as universities and researchers, to silence potential critics

A good reminder that we are in a new age of consumers and pundits alike challenging our industry to make it more relevant to consumers needs, but one note of caution – don’t rush the process of change as many of the operational efficiencies are still needed to keep our food supply safe and affordable.