May 17 2009

Independent foods

Stasia and I try to eat with as much respect for the triple bottom line as possible. We try to eat mainly food we prepare ourselves from fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown locally and pesticide-free. We do however purchase some processed or pre-packaged food products (condiments for instance), and try to support local or independent options whenever available (and affordable).

In light of this I was slightly disturbed recently to find this:

July 2008 Organic Food industry

July 2008 Organic Food industry

and the Consolidation of Organic food companies video from Philip Howard‘s research at Michigan State University.

The graphics basically show “which large-scale food production company owns your favorite ‘independent’ organics brand”.

To me there’s an issue here with branding and corporate obfuscation. I think it should have to be clearer who owns which companies and where exactly the money is going. If Dagoba chocolate is really a division of Hershey then in my mind there should need to be some indication of that on the product. I know that logistically this may be impossible as our “free market” converges into fewer and fewer companies that in each sector begin to look like more like oligopolies than examples of “freedom of choice.” But, if I want to be a conscious consumer and “vote with my dollar” as everyone is so fond of advocating, then it seems fundamentally necessary to have transparency on the purveyor of goods. Right?