We Americans can be very fickle people when it comes to food. We tend to embrace whatever the newest fad diet is, reject the "bad" food of the week, or pursue the newest health craze. Of late, that behavior has manifested into a rejection of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and led to embracing local, organic food. These people, who call themselves locavores, are not the only ones who want healthy food on their grocery store shelves. First Lady Michelle Obama has made health and physical fitness a staple of her term. She works to make sure children get adequate exercise, that their school lunches are healthy, and that all Americans, no matter where they live, have access to healthy food. Unfortunately, many Americans live in so-called "food deserts"--areas of the country where there is no easily accessible store that sells healthy food. Though frequently occurring in poorer areas of big cities, it also affects the rural poor.
All of these factors have coalesced to change the way Americans eat and shop. No longer is local, organically grown food restricted to Trader Joe’s or food co-ops. Now even the largest chain grocery stores try to attract these customers. Many grocery stores label produce with the location where the food was grown. In addition, many businesses label food as organically grown when applicable. Furthermore, some states and countries require any products with GMOs to be labeled as such. But these moves are not restricted to grocery chains; Target and Walmart are also making these moves. Both big box stores have made tremendous strides in the past few years as they try to attract more customers. These moves can also help solve the food desert crisis.
Both Target and Walmart label where their produce comes from. In addition, they brag on their websites about this move. It seems to be a way for them to portray themselves as positive members of the community and champions of the environment. While this may be true, it is also a way to save a lot of money. According to Walmart’s website, the average produce travels 1500 miles from the farm to the store. That is a lot of money they have to spend on fuel, wages, not to mention produce that may spoil on the trip. Interestingly, quite a few chains have started their own organic line of food. This is a way to attract a new niche market of customers who value helping out local farmers and do not mind spending a few extra bucks to do so.
Walmart is actually taking another interesting step, working with some Southern states to start more organic farms, thus creating jobs while saving transportation money. For years, Target has had their own line of Food called Archer Farms. Recently they launched a new line called Simply Balanced. This line promises to provide customers with locally grown organic food and assures them these products will not have GMOs, trans fats, artificial flavors, and additives. This gives customers an easy-to-understand nutrition label. In addition, they are cheap; the most expensive product is $14.99.
Like any good business, the grocery industry constantly adjusts to meet changing customer demands and wants. A developing market of the past few years are consumers who want to know where their food came from and how it was grown. Even businesses like Target and Walmart—which exist to provide their customers with cheap goods—have gotten involved in the process. Because these companies save money on transportation costs, own the line that is locally grown and organic, and attract new customers, these shifts only serve to help meet both the customer’s needs and the business’ bottom line.
Laura Holt, for Agrilicious!