I often run across arguments and stories that seem to suggest that consumers have no choice (or very little choice). Their "environment" is a function it seems, solely, of what food retailers choose to offer. Representative of this sort of view is a tweet I noticed yesterday.
Does the food industry influence you and your kids? Probably, to some extent. I suspect they wouldn't spend millions on advertising if it didn't have some effect.
But, here is the question I want to ask: Do you influence the food industry? The answer, is "yes"! Food companies can't just offer anything they want. Somebody has to buy it.
Our choices are shaped by the environment in which we live and by the offerings of food companies. But, we have to realize that our food environment is also shaped by our cumulative choices. To stay in business, food companies must respond to our desires.
Just a few examples from stories I've seen in just the past couple weeks:
- Food companies stopped using dyes and lean-fine-textured beef in response to social media and buying patterns.
- A study shows that food and beverage retailers have voluntarily cut calories sold by more than 6.4 trillion calories per year since 2007 (a reduction of 78/calorie/person/day)
- Cheerios say they no longer will use GMO ingredient
Of course, this just scratches the surface. How many more "gluten free" products do you see today than even one year ago? How many milk jugs advertise to be "rBST free" today vs. 10 years ago?
I'm not at all claiming that each of these represent a rational response by consumers to the actual objective level of risk (or, rather the actual lack of risk) present in such products.
However, anyone who thinks food retailers aren't responding to consumer desires simply isn't paying attention.