Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Business of Food

by David G. Woolley

Editor's Note: This post is the introduction to a summer-long look at food. Join us every Tuesday for some words of wisdom. And if you think wisdom is a little too presumptuous for the Top of the Morning, you may be right. But that's not going to stop us from at least trying.

Food glorious food. It has the Snap, Crackle and Pop of the Breakfast of Champions. Beef. Its what America has for dinner. And what do they have for desert? Chewy caramel and milk chocolate. It's finger lickin' good because in this country you can always have it your way.

In the USA today there's more variety to tantalize your palate than at any time in the history of the planet. We have the semi trailer truck and the cargo ship to thank for that. If you live in Anchorage you can get a romaine salad in December and if Iowa is your home you can feast on salmon in October with a side of corn-on-the-cob. You can also get Fruity Pebbles, Fat Boys, Snickers, Coco Puffs, Starbursts, Marshmello Matees, Goo Goo Clusters, Lays, Wheaties, Orioles, Chips Ahoy, Moose Tracks, Wheatables, Yogo Sticks, Jumbo Dogs, Hot Dogs, Corn Dogs, Skor, Sun Chips, Moon Chips, Twinkies, Fruit Loops, Haggen Daus, Pringles, and Twizzlers. Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. Seven days a week. Twenty four hours a day. Processed foods are always in season.

In purely economic terms there was a time when food was a need. But sometime after 1832 when Joseph Smith announced an inspired health code, food became big business with market share, market niches, competitive pricing, wholesale, retail, profit margins, and gross incomes. Nutrition fell out of style. What tastes good became hip because "I'm lovin' it".

The competition in the packaged food industry is fierce. The profit margins are narrow. If the food goes bad on the shelf the retailer returns it and the wholesaler loses big. So what do they do? Lengthen the shelf life is the mantra of all food research and development. After millions of dollars invested in food preservation what did the researchers recommend? Add sugar. Add salt. It costs only pennies to sweeten the deal and it doubles the shelf life. Most of the researchers were MBAs not nutritionists.

Adding sugar to the equation also doubled appeal. There have been a lot of wars this past century. Nearly all of them were covered in the media. The nightly news missed the sugar war. How much hype and misery is there in something innocent like sugar, really? Sweet doesn't sell newspapers, but it sells food. And lots of it.

Sugar additives are everywhere. Even places you would never imagine. Pizza sauce. Milk. Peanut butter. Tomato paste. Canned corn. Canned beans. Canned anything. If you're in the food industry you've got to increase market share then hold it. Losing market share is death. If you're ticked you can't get your coffee taste-a-like Postum anymore, don't blame General Foods. Blame the shrinking market share for the roasted oats hot drink. The reason they dropped the product? It didn't taste very good.

In all this business about food, there is a lot of talk about low fat, low sugar, no cholesterol, sugar free, fat free. There is never a word about health promoting, disease promoting, good for you, bad for you, nutritious or non-nutritious. That discussion loses market share for everyone in the processed food industry.

So maybe Joseph Smith was right. He couldn't speak to the business of food in terms of profit margins, shelf life, or market share. But he did offer us a window to the nutrition of our day with a few words of wisdom when he wrote "in consequence of the evils and designs that do and will exist in the hearts of conspiring men".

Eat well. Live well. See you next Tuesday for Part I of Words of Wisdom.

Join author David G. Woolley at his Promised Land Website. He is also a weekly contributor to the Latter Day Authors blog and he writes commentary and opinion at the Utah Ranger's Far Post blog


Sandra said...

I teach my children young to read and interpret food labels so they know just exactly how much garbage is in the processed food. The more raw you are able to eat your food, the better for the body I say. And once you cleanse your body of all the processed junk, your pallet changes and you can't stand to eat the garbage anymore.
I can't keep fruits and veggies in stock in my house, the kids eat them as fast as I get them.

David G. Woolley said...


Good for you! It will bless their lives for the rest of their lives. Fewer or no disease. Degeneration organs will cease. You'll have fewer sickness. Life will be good.

David G. Woolley

Kerry Blair said...

You left out Moon Pies. My mother grew up on Moon Pies and chicken-fried steak and still considers them the world's most perfect food. See what I was/am up against?

I'm not there yet, truth be told, but I'm here to tell you that when I follow the plan you sent me all those years ago I walk better, I think better, I feel better, I AM better.

I'm also forever grateful. (Even if I did call you a kook. Or a food Nazi. Or whatever it was that leaked out when I was trying to wean myself from sugar and white flour.) I'll look forward to next Tuesday on the TOTM blog -- and all the days in between.

David G. Woolley said...


It was degenerate Nazi kook of a pig. I remember it clearly. You were eating the last twinkie in the box. I was shopping for a better price on soy milk. You sent a text message. I still have it. I think you were detoxing. It went straight to your head. The sugar fix was really deep. I could tell. The text message was shaking. I knew you'd come back from it sooner or later.

Thanks for stopping by. Its not a large group. But its a good one.

David G. Woolley

Kerry Blair said...

You mis-remember. It was definitely a Ding Dong.

David G. Woolley said...

Chocolate or Cherry?

David G. Woolley

Jennie said...

It takes me three hours to grocery shop because I read labels. I have to because my husband has Celiac. That little problem pretty much shuts out junk food in our house. Anyway we're fresh fruit junkies and love summer when we can eat our own garden vegies. However, I can't pass up good chocolate. At least I've become discriminating when it comes to which kinds of chocolate I'll eat.

David G. Woolley said...


You found me! I am honored you'd join the discussion. How much do you charge to come back? Often. I'll send you green drink in the mail. I'll french cut your carrots. I'll even germinate your wheat sprouts. Anything. Name it.

Thanks for stopping by. Which now means I have to post Wednesday's and Thursday's posts which are languishing on the writing table after the LONGEST soccer week of the year.

I am back. And I'm going to post something as soon as I kick back and have a glass of Odwalla Super Food juice. Can I just say that Costco finally has something worth signing up for and getting that little card?

Good to see you Jennie! (or at least hear from you)

David G. Woolley