Politically simple minded but very astute in the supermarket

by Ivano Abbadessa - 2017.02.17
Politically simple minded but very astute in the supermarket
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Without, With, Natural, Bio, Light: it’s the jungle of labels found on products at the grocery store, that is making everyone in the world crazy. What they call in Spanish: alicamentos, food-medicine. A galaxy of products that consumers cannot live without (or so they think), because they help them live with or prevent disturbances or pathologies of every conceivable kind. Just think about the most popular examples, celiac disease or lactose intolerance. But, also lifestyles that are pushing so many to adopt a vegetarian, vegan or raw “philosophy”.

The key word when talking about food in today’s marketplace is: how. Customers want to know “how” the product they are about to buy was made. Ingredients and the way it was stored prior to getting to the supermarket must be explained and spelled out clearly. With no surprises or secrets. The European Union lobbyists who worked hard to get the obligatory beef tracking laws in place in 2002, after the outbreak of mad cow disease understand all this very well. While, since 2003, the declaring of the variety and origin of fresh fruit was made obligatory. Followed by the 2004 ordinance to identify the country of origin for eggs and honey. This year, on the other hand, it is Milk’s turn and also that of milk derivatives. And, next in line is the grain from which pasta is made, which soon will need to be declared on the package.

The truth of the matter is that, different than the past, all of this information, about the “trackability” of a product, speaking to the quality and safety of what we plan to put into our mouths, is no longer of interest to a small, niche group. A recent survey conducted in Spain, indicates, for example, that 50% of supermarket customers is in search of organically grown products, while 32% wants food without artificial coloring. The same percentage of the population wants to make sure that the food on their table has a limited fat and sugar content as well. And, as many as 46% is willing to pay more for these products, not a small fraction of the customer base, but a very healthy, significant segment of it. The market is not just crunching numbers, it is responding concretely to the demand. In these last years, if we just consider one of these trends, the number of vegetarian or vegan restaurants has grown exponentially everywhere in Europe. According to the data compiled by the consulting firm Lantern, taken from numerous international sources, the global “veg” business today, has reached 4,000 million dollars (3,700 million euro) and is growing at an annual rate of 6%. To the point that by 2020, the revenue from this market segment is expected to reach over 5,000 million dollars.