Specialty vs processed food
A recent article in Mother Jones examines what Americans are eating overall. Information here is pulled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and we learn that we now spend more on processed foods than any other food type. This is followed by meats, with dairy now at the bottom!
Yet, according to the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade's 2012 state of the market report, the largest category of specialty food at retail is "cheese and cheese alternatives." Second on their list is also meat ("meat, poultry and seafood") coming in at a little over half of of cheese's numbers. In addition, according to the NASFT specialty foods represent 13.7 percent of all food sales at retail. This has accelerated over the past few years, as it was "only" 13.1 percent in their 2011 report, which surveyed the years 2008-2010.
I don't know what the BLS counts as processed food and what "cheese alternatives" are in the NASFT data. Neither are defined. Maybe some part of cheese alternatives fits into the processed food category? Maybe part of processed food IS dairy? Who knows? It would be nice if they could agree on shared terms.
But, it does seem as if American eating is going in two entirely different directions. And that raises my eyebrow. It's something to discuss this weekend at the Fancy Food Show.
Here are two related points you can use at your cookouts and cocktail parties this weekend.
- If diary consumption is decreasing in the OVERALL food spend, that doesn't really support the "cheese is the evil thing making American's obese" refrain we've heard of late. Hmmm?
- These divergent trends will demand pundit Twister to avoid making class and economics damning statements. Avoid this. Instead, sing Harry Belafonte, "it's as clear as mud, but it covers the ground..." and dance away.