Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Chowing of America

There's a downside to economies of scale. It's when you produce things people don't want. Small scale, you have a bunch of things people don't want. Big scale, you have a TON of things people don't want.

Theoretically, companies figure out what people want before they produce a ton of them. The drawback to this is that it is difficult and requires intelligent, capable people. The current corporate environment is such that they don't do difficult things well because they have trouble keeping intelligent, capable people.

What's a corporation to do? Why not just tell people what they want, which is what they happen to have a ton of!

And thus, the "Chowing" begins.

Look at what happened to Ben & Jerry's. The "cool" ice cream guys. Ben & Jerry's on Wikipedia: After a failed attempt by Ben Cohen to return the company to private ownership, Ben and Jerry's was purchased in August 2000 by the Unilever conglomerate...

What was told to me off the record was that Unilever muscled the company. They would buy the shelf space for their own brand, and crowd Ben & Jerry's off the shelves and into bankruptcy. To keep the company going, they sold it. And now what happens?

However, in 2002, the Center for Science in the Public Interest accused Ben and Jerry's of abusing the "All Natural" label for using artificial flavors, hydrogenated oils, and other factory-made substances in their products. Ben and Jerry's official response was that they used a different definition of "all natural" than the CSPI. In August 2006, Ben & Jerry's came under criticism from the Humane Society of the United States for using eggs in its ice cream that come from hens confined in battery cages.

I'm here to tell you, it just isn't the same. As much as we love Cherry Garcia, some weird stuff's been creeping in. Look at the most recent ingredient list, and I bolded what used to NOT be in there: Cream, Skim Milk, Liquid Sugar, Water, Cherries, Egg Yolks, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Coconut Oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), Cocoa, Natural Flavors, Concentrated Lemon Juice, Caramel And Red Cabbage Juice Extract (For Color), Guar Gum, Milkfat, Soya Lecithin, Carrageenan

It's a crying shame! "Natural flavors" are not. They are made in labs. Just FYI.

And that incredible, vast range of flavors? Shrinking since 2000. I was told that the shops get half the flavors they once had.

Thanks, Corporate America. Just another cool thing you've destroyed to make another penny per unit. Because that's the sick part, isn't it? That we would pay a nickel a unit to have the old Cherry Garcia back. I'd pay another five or ten bucks so my jeans would be sewn by a union worker in this country. Corporations are making it harder and harder to hunt down quality stuff. The kind of stuff I want, and am willing to forgo stuff I don't want, for.

But that is not the way it works for Corporate America. The plan is: drop the price per unit by decreasing quality. Then the Consumer has to buy more for the same level of satisfaction. The jeans wear out sooner. The coffeemaker breaks sooner. The ice cream does not satisfy.

Modern corporations would vastly prefer consumers without choice. This is why Neopolitan ice cream was invented in the first place. Produce was the first to fall into line. They won't offer a tasty tomato, when the tasteless ones ship better. Why do you think they used to load up baked goods with trans fats? So they can sit on the shelves longer.

Their goal is to remove all that different food from the supermarkets, and replace it with People Chow. Want music? We have Music Chow. Want to read? We have Book Chow.

We have more and more, and enjoy it less and less.

Aren't you excited? It's Chow Time.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting! The Ben & Jerry's example of the new ingredients is a great one. I, too, am mourning the Walmart-ization and Amazon-ization of America. I have never stepped foot into a Walmart and I have never purchased a book online. I am lucky enough to live in a neighborhood of Boston that has many independent businesses, including bookstores, and I make my purchases there. I realize not everyone lives somewhere that offers these kinds of shops. But I want to do my part to stop corporations.