Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Guest Post: Companies Vs. Consumers: A Manifesto

Today's guest post comes from Daniel Koontz. Dan is the author of Casual Kitchen, a kick-butt blog that helps readers cook more, think more, and spend less. It's my (Kris') favorite food blog. Er, beyond this one.

Why are so many people convinced that all food companies and retailers are evil, greedy, and exist solely to exploit their customers?

If you hold that kind of simplistic, generalized world view, you are committing an act of personal disempowerment. You may not know it, but you are willingly giving your power away to these companies.

This is not to say that some companies aren't greedy. And it's not to say that consumers aren't at times unfairly separated from their money. But it is the height of enfeebled hypocrisy to whine and complain about "greedy companies" when they merely make and sell the very products we consent to buy.

I will not allow my readers to give their power over to companies like that. No way.

The truth is this: big business (or Big Food, or Big Retail, or Big Auto, or Big Pharma--go ahead and take your pick) has absolutely no power over us unless we willingly choose to be disempowered first. There have never been more companies competing for our consumer dollars, and there have never been more consumption choices available to us--including the easy-to-forget option not to consume at all.

Just walk into any standard supermarket, and you'll find at least 50,000 products--three times what you'd find 30 years ago--all helpfully arranged throughout the store in the hopes that you'll make a purchase.

And sure, among those 55,000 products there are lots of unhealthy foods. But an unbiased walk through any grocery store will reveal an extremely wide array of healthy, laughably cheap foods too.

If you decide to eat unhealthy foods in the face of all of those choices, you are the one making that choice. No snivelling marketing executive from Big Food forced that overpriced and heavily-advertised bag of potato chips down your throat. (PS: uh, if this actually does happen to you, please put down this blog and call 911).

Sure, the food industry may have made those chips hyperpalatably salty and tantalizingly delicious. But you picked the bag off the shelf, you carried it to the counter, you paid for it with your money, and you took the bag home, opened it and consumed the contents.

If you think it's reasonable to blame Big Food for that sequence of events, then you're beyond help. You've already given away all of your power.


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