big food

What Is ‘Big Food’ and Why Do We Care?

Modern foodies are smart and are demanding more from the brands they buy in supermarkets. This is especially true of today’s younger generations who are more informed about health, sustainability and ethical practices.

There is a growing distrust for the larger industrial food producers around the world and the movement towards smaller local independent producers is gaining momentum. Unfortunately not everyone can afford the premium price that is often associated with the smaller farmers and food makers. Luckily, as consumers, we have the power to change the way Big Food operates by changing our own shopping behaviours and being mindful of where we spend our shopping dollars.

Is ‘Big Food’ Just Another Buzzword

The term Big Food is used a lot in the media and it can mean different things to different people. In the most general sense it applies to the very large industrial food producers and manufactures, the ones that largely dominate the production and sale of packaged food and drink. In the UK this includes Brakes, 2 Sisters and Iceland, while in the US the major players are Pepsico, Nestle and Tyson Foods.

Big Food can also be used to refer to the large industrial scale agricultural companies who provide raw materials to the farming industry. The most well known of these would be Monsanto and DuPont who have an almost monopoly like hold on the seed and grain industry; even more so since the merger of Monsanto and Bayer.

big food agriculture

Big In Size and Big In Influence

These are big companies but ‘so what?’ you might say.

It’s not the size of the companies that is the problem, but their behaviour, power and influence that are the concern.

The majority of these Big Food conglomerates have shareholders that they are accountable to. This leads to profit being their primary objective. In their desire to succeed and announce record breaking annual profits it’s likely that health, nutrition, ethical practices and sustainability are pushed aside.

Due to their size these companies have very large research and development budgets. All too often we see reports where these funds have been used to influence research studies, government bodies or other similarly important institutions.

Challenging Big Food

As consumers we don’t have to accept that food has to be this way.

Big Food has gained its power over the last 40-50 years alongside the rise of supermarkets, but there’s no reason that we can’t send it back to where it came from.

The rise and popularity of startups in the food sustainability, food innovation and food tech space demonstrates that their are plenty of entrepreneurs and small businesses who believe there are better solutions. There are entire brands built on the importance of health, nutrition or sustainability.

When choosing what products we buy and consume we all have the power to support the producers that align with our own values and principles. Companies who provide transparency on how they produce their products, disclose information on their raw materials and care about issues that are important to consumers do exist. As consumers who care it is our duty to find them.

Next time you’re doing your weekly shop, stop to think about what you buy and why. Vote with your wallet and buy brands that are transparent and have ethical, sustainable practices.

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