Good food promotes health, is produced in a sustainable manner and is affordable. In comparison, cheap food offers a superior low price delivered by an industrial food supply chain dependent upon massive consumption of pesticides, energy, fertilizer and antibiotics. Cheap food’s emerging long-term health impacts include obesity and diabetes.
Americans conflicted over food value and values
Americans are conflicted over food prices and health concerns. Price is their top food concern, but health is their second major food concern finishing very close to price. How we reconcile our hunger for cheap food compared to the value created from eating good food will impact our human, economic and environmental health.
The cost impacts of cheap food
The American diet of cheap food has created unintended consequences that are making cheap food unaffordable. Americans consume more soft drinks than any other group of consumers in the world. The consequences generated by this scale of soda consumption as outlined in a letter sent to the U.S. surgeon general from more than 100 health organizations and municipal health departments include obesity, coronary heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, some cancers and psychosocial problems.
The environmental impacts of cheap food are enormous. The production and delivery of food accounts for 50 percent of U.S. land use, 80 percent of our water consumption and 10 percent of our total energy use. The waste stream of cheap food is a staggering amount of garbage. For example, we throw away 25 billion paper cups each year because they are “free.” That adds up annually to 363 million pounds of waste and the loss of more than 9 million trees. Because food is “cheap,” we throw away 40 percent of it, representing $165 billion of consumer spending being annually dumped into landfills.
Cheap food’s super size portions and $1 menu items that are rich in fats and sugars have made most of us overweight, created a national obesity epidemic and is a major factor behind the alarming 23 percent increase in children afflicted by diabetes over the last eight years. The question of whether we can afford cheap food is becoming much too real.
Good food is gaining
The good news is that we are increasingly shifting our spending toward food that offers good value, is healthier for us and is produced in a more sustainable manner. Organic food sales are now growing at a 10 percent annual rate compared to a 3 percent sales growth for non-organic foods. Just as importantly, American businesses like Whole Foods and Chipotle are pioneering how to make good food competitive in terms of value and convenience. And selling good food is turning out to be a winner for businesses and investors. For example, Chipotle recently reported a 21 percent annual sales increase including an impressive 8 percent increase in same-store sales achieved even in this slow growth economy.
Why Chipotle believes good food will win
The following video interview of Chris Arnold, Chipotle Communication Director conducted at the Sustainable Brands 2012 Conference profiles why Chipotle believes good food will win!
Look for the upcoming companion article to this posting on “Restaurant Green Best Practices That Win Customers and Grow Profits.”
Bill Roth is the Founder of Earth 2017. He coaches business owners and leaders on proven best practices in pricing, marketing and operations that make money and create a positive difference. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles business case studies of pioneering best practices that are proven to win customers and grow product revenues.