Why food is more than a 'consumer good'

Food is often referred to as a 'fast moving consumer good' and yet it is so much more than that.

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Food has played a significant role in human history and culture. It provides nourishment, nutrients and energy - key ingredients that have enabled us to evolve from hunter gatherers to farmers, technologists and engineers. It has defined nations through it's central role in rituals, iconic dishes and celebrations.

However despite it's enduring place in history, and its essential role in everyday life, food has fallen down our ladder of priorities to the extent that it is classified as a fast moving consumer item - alongside cleaning products and toiletries. It now finds itself having to compete for our limited attention and our limited time. 

It sits on supermarket shelves calling out to us with various claims that aim to top what the food next to it is saying. It sells it's soul by competing on 'value' offering two for one deals that encourage us to buy more than what we need. This feeds the short term buzz of reward that comes with snagging a bargain, but on the other hand, fuels a mindset that de-values food by supporting a thought process that finds it OK to toss out what we don't use because we didn't pay that much for it in the first place. 

The true cost of our throw away attitude is not reflected in the price we pay at the checkout.  

Soylent, the US meal replacement product that takes it's inspiration from the 1966 dystopian book Make Room! Make Room! is perhaps the ultimate example of just how far we have come. In it's marketing, Soylent highlights that one of its key benefits is that it takes away the inconvenience of having to chew. Really? Since when did chewing become an inconvenience? 

If we've reduced our view of food to one where we see it as a simple consumer good and view chewing as an inconvenience, it's time to rethink our priorities.

The constant strive for convenience feeds a disconnection with the source of our food, in turn contributing to a lower level of respect for the effort and energy that goes into growing and making it. We all know it takes a village to raise a child, but we don't always respect that it's taking Mother Earth's resources to raise our food.

An over-emphasis on convenience as a means of selling food also fuels the idea that taking the time to cook and sit down to eat is a low value activity.  But as naturally social creatures who survive on contact with each other, sharing food and meals is one of the things that glues us together and makes us human.

Perhaps it's time to re-think our drive for convenience and to challenge existing priorities.

It could be that growing, cooking and eating add more value to our lives than watching the latest episode of our favourite TV show, updating our social media pages, or staying longer at work. 

While convenience will continue to play a role in helping people eat better within their current lifestyles, like many things, there's an optimal balance to be found between owning a farm and a herd and using UberEATS 24/7. 

It's time to slow down. Food is precious and eating is a privilege - let's value them as such, both in our personal lives and in the way we develop, communicate and market foods to our customers and clients.