On the surface, this cartoon below reflects the expectations that health-and-wellness champions hold toward the industrial-agricultural-criminal complex as news of the Buffett-steered Kraft Heinz unification spilled out to the masses. However, I tend toward another view that, I admit, may be slightly over-optimistic, especially considering my acerbic criticism of food politics on the larger whole.
Thanks to the Internet and its by-products such as blogs, self-help guides, recipe sites, food tips, and eBooks/self-publishing, the packaged food industry has become a laughingstock in the era of the holistic approach to one’s optimal health and betterment. Consumers are seeing through the facade of organic gummy bears, low-fat disinformation, GMOs, recommending sugar bomb diets for diabetics, and the government’s recommendations for an abundance of grains and other carbohydrates. Smarter-type folks are now hip to the formerly popular non-foods such as Spam, Cheez Whiz, Cool Whip, and Velveeta, and they judiciously avoid them. Soda sales are tanking steadily, year after year.
Helping oneself via the process of self-education no longer requires long drives to the nearest mega-bookstore to spend oodles of hours perusing the shelves for topics of interest to find an occasional useful book. The Internet has revolutionized the way educated consumers think about what they put in their mouths. Real food diets – of all types and versions – are being embraced. Artisanal producers are popping up out of home kitchens and selling their wares online and in farmers markets, where there are fewer barriers to entry. Farmers markets have become exponentially popular, even post-bust when the recession was wiping out employment, savings, and individual wealth. Even pet food has seen an explosion of pricey foods wherein manufacturers very visibly exclaim their products are free from soy, wheat, gluten, and other ingredients being shunned by health-savvy consumers.
I think this merger is not so much about leveraging market share to sell more of their antiquated products as it is about getting into a more favorable position to be able respond to market pressures to begin selling more healthful, real foods while also allowing for greater transparency at a time when food shoppers are beginning to shop for food based on ingredients and understanding the labeling. My hope is that a merger such as this directs its synergies toward repurposing a massive-but-prehistoric resource (Kraft) to take note of consumer-marketplace demands.