My Holiday Wish List (Or, an Open Letter to Food Companies)
Dear Santa (and by “Santa” I mean food manufacturers and marketers):
Below is my wish list of products I wish you’d develop and market. Instead of filling supermarket shelves with more crap we don’t need, won’t you please make any of these useful products and put them in our collective stockings?
Readers: I hereby invite you to add to this wish-list by submitting your comments below!
- Lactose-free, (organic) cow’s milk yogurt: The #1 search term that brings people to my blog, hands down, is “lactose-free yogurt.” There is a huge need for it in the marketplace, and the only company that had been marketing such a product, True Yogurt, has recently disappeared from supermarket shelves due to the loss of their production facilities. I hope they will re-appear in the not-too-distant future, but their absence calls attention to this massive gap in the over-assorted yogurt aisle. Instead of launching more so-called “functional yogurts” with bogus, unsubstantiated health claims about immunity, heart health and digestive health, won’t someone just make a plain ol’ lactose-free cow’s milk yogurt? Not a highly-processed soy yogurt. Not a highly-processed rice milk yogurt. Just a natural, just-sweet-enough yogurt made with lowfat lactose-free milk and no processed crap, preferably made with hormone-free, organic milk. At the risk of being called greedy, I’d order up a lactose-free Greek Yogurt variety, too.
- Individual packets of wheat-free Tamari sauce: If these babies existed, I’d keep them in my purse (just like my mom keeps Sweet & Low in her wallet) and feel at liberty to join my friends for sushi whenever I pleased. If they were reduced sodium, all the better. Of course, if enlightened Asian restaurants across the country started offering these on the table for us wheat-free customers, that’d be swell, too.
- Mini cans of LITE coconut milk: A few food companies have finally caught on that very few of us ever use a 14.5 oz can of coconut milk at a time, and are tired of seeing the leftovers grow moldy in the fridge within a few days. The resulting 5.6 oz can is a welcome addition to the supermarket, and given the price premium per ounce that marketers are charging, would seem to be a profitable item for manufacturers as well. Unfortunately, these baby cans are as yet only available in full-fat coconut milk, which I am loathe to use for its whopping saturated fat and calorie content. Won’t someone please start selling LITE coconut milk in the 5.6oz can?
- Whole grain, gluten-free cereal fortified with iron, B12 and folic acid: While the universe of gluten-free cereals is slowly growing, the universe of healthy gluten-free cereals made with whole grains and containing fiber is not. While I appreciate the gesture that Chex made with their gluten-free varieties of corn, rice, honey nut and cinnamon Chex cereals, these products contain a maximum of 1g fiber per serving–and some varieties have none at all. I think you can do better, General Mills. Take a page out of the Puffins playbook: Barbara’s Bakery managed to squeeze a more respectable 3g of fiber into their new gluten-free Multigrain Puffins cereal from whole grain sources and they fortified it with Iron, Vitamin D and calcium to boot… all of which are nutrients that people consuming a plant-based diet have a hard time getting enough of. If they had thrown in some B12, it would have been perfection…
- Oat Matzoh: Granted, matzoh is a bit of a niche product, purchased by Jews (and the closeted non-Jewish Matzoh fans whose love for this constipation-inducing, bland, aptly-nicknamed “bread of affliction” continues to puzzle me), once a year during Passover. Each year, the presumably static matzoh market is further segmented by new and fashionable varieties to address imagined consumer need states: whole wheat matzoh, “thin tea matzoh” (perhaps for those Jews expecting to have High Tea with the Queen of England during Passover?), spelt matzoh, unsalted matzoh, egg matzoh, yolk-free egg matzoh (for lovers of Egg Matzoh with high-cholesterol?). And yet, not one gluten-free Matzoh variety is available for a population with higher than average incidence rates of Celiac disease. (Sounds like someone in marketing has not been doing their homework…) Last year, my mom hunted down a box of gluten-free Oat Matzoh from England for me. They cost her $30 for an 8 oz box whose ingredient label read: “Oat flour, water.” At $60 a pound, these matzohs produced a week’s worth of matzoh brie for breakfast that cost about the same as an equivalent amount of Kobe beef. Surely, an American company could produce an equivalent product locally to meet the demands of the wheat-free crowd?
- Heirloom, heritage and novel varieties of fruits and vegetables: Overwhelming–and arguably unnecessary– variety dominate the modern supermarket in all aisles except one: the produce aisle. Why is it that I can get 20 different types of Colgate toothpaste in most supermarkets, but only 3 types of lettuce? Or just 4 types of apple? Some scary stats to ponder from the Sustainable Table:
- Almost 96% of the commercial vegetable varieties available in 1903 are now extinct
- Twelve plant crops account for more than 3/4 of the food consumed in the world, and just three–rice, wheat and maize–are relied on for more than half of the world’s food.
The textbook rationale for this unacceptable state of affairs is that marketers can only make money from selling “value added” (read: processed) foods, and that produce is a commodity with thin margins. Perhaps this is true if you are producing and selling commoditized varieties of produce, like generic, tasteless heads of iceberg lettuce for which consumers are understandably unwilling to pay a premium. But those few growers who have dared to introduce a unique varietal of fruit or vegetable that is differentiated on the basis of its awesome flavor (like Honeycrisp apples, for example) have demonstrated that there are price premiums to achieve and profit to be made even in the produce aisle. (Mind you: I’m not talking genetically-modified species here.) News flash, produce managers and agribusiness mongers: you can actually make money while restoring some of the planet’s biodiversity and enriching our collective lives by reaching back into the vast archive of plant species that once roamed the earth and re-introducing the delicious-est ones back into our diets.
Thank you in advance, Santa, for considering my requests above and passing them along to the naughty food marketers who seek to make your “nice” list by next Christmas.
Love, TamaraDid you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.