Thursday, November 20, 2008

More people, more money, same iconic brand names...

We see it happen all the time, a catchy idea or a fantastic restaurant get the chance to step up and bring their goods to market. The big, American market; with hopes of someday achieving national distribution and high volume sales! [This is only the observation/opinion of a consumer with no formal business training]

But, it seems too difficult to find balance on the high wire between artisan and commodity. Do consumer goods, especially food stuffs, lose character when they are brought to the mainstream? Do the owners preserve the family traditions? the same old flavor? or do they make some compromises for the sake of mass production? Reading about Murray's Cheese Shop partnering with the supermarket group Kroger made these thoughts come to mind. Murray's is great cheese shop and they have done well in NYC--a wide selection and excellent ideas! The commercialization of the Patsy's name, a famous New York City eatery, also comes to mind; I remember the first time I saw a jar of their sauce on the shelf at the grocer. Best wishes to these companies in their endeavors, but it really says something when a creative entrepreneur can resist the power of the dollar to maintain their artisanal status.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

re: farmer markets

In a brief article that I read today about some current food trends (America’s up-and-coming food capitals), the author mentions the increasing number of farmer markets in the U.S. -

"Between 2002 and 2006, there was a 40% increase in the number of markets nationwide, according to the market research group Packaged Facts. When last counted in 2006, there were 4,385 markets in the country, each of which exposes consumers to regional growers and purveyors."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

trendy preserves

Living in an urban area, with tall buildings instead of growing fields, it stands out to me when farmers' markets roll into town. In various areas of my city I now have the opportunity to meander down a row of local vendors selling the fruits of their labor. My personal experiences and observations tell me there is a definite trend for seeking out local, sustainable, and healthier foods (or at least foods that seem more positive than the prepackaged stuff at the grocery stores). I love it! As a member of Slow Food USA, I thoroughly enjoy observing new facets of the current food movement, from Michael Pollan writings to local Food Trust initiatives.

One trend I have definitely noticed on the net is the return to home canning—putting food up for the winter. It might be that people are budgeting, trying to reduce their carbon footprints, or simply that they have fallen in love with their local farmer(s). Or perhaps the abundance of information and communication on the internet is driving more individuals to become do-it-yourself-canners. There are numerous interesting reads out there with some home preservation info:
NY Times Topic on Local Food, Preserving Your Bounty, and Preserve.

I heard that canned food consumption does increase during economic downturns, so I am wondering if home economics have paired with slow foodie trends to usher in a new generation of home preservers. Hopefully if this does happen, people will preserve with care to ensure their safety. I hope that people heat their projects correctly to reduce the chances of a clostridium botulinum problem. It would be interesting to see if an increase in home canning correlates with an increase in C. bot. occurrences (hopefully not!). Could the return to home canning be a large enough movement to have an effect on the public health level?