the changing world of Food
I am seeing a variety of business plans in the food space. I believe some make sense for now while others are are a reach. Of course that is my own humble opinion. Many of them might be stepping stones to changes that will take place in an efficient cost effective way while others are just huge labor, low margins businesses that I don't see myself getting involved in. Regardless, it is exciting to see so many people thinking about the food we put on our table and particularly understanding what we are consuming.
Mark Bittman wrote an op-ed post a few weeks ago about what his ideal label would like. Everything should be told about what we are eating. I agree with that. I would like to know if the food is being sourced from a reliable source, that the ingredients are fresh, if they treat their employees with care, if they give to non-profit organizations, if they are not full of articial ingredients, etc. I could go on and on.
Here is what I do know that this is not an app business. This is something that has to be read at the point of sale, right on the box. People are not going to walk down an aisle and scan their product or look it up while they shop. There are just some things that will remain the same such as shopping down a supermarket aisle and when you reach for a product you should be able to find out information right then and there on the store price tag/label.
Another thing is that information helps stores accumulate data about what their customers are buying. That is powerful information. Maybe they would find out that they are selling 3 types of crackers much better with a quicker turn than the 5 they carry now when they make that information available to their consumer. It will allow the store to make better buying decisions for their customer and in turn becoming better businesses.
I am invested in a company doing just that. How Good. When we saw Bittmans article, Alexander the CEO wrote a letter to the NYTimes stating that we were doing just what Bittman was hoping to see. Yet to be published but we will see. Just in case it doesn't, I have inserted the letter below.
There is a lot ideas and businesses that are looking for funding to grow and I don't see many of them actually being able to scale. How Good…I believe that this one is a winner in the food space for the consumer and the companies that use their technology.
Here is Alexanders leter to the editor of the New York Times:
special thank you to Mr. Bittman for his excellent article encouraging
Americans to think critically about how our food is labeled. It’s
especially personal for us- our organization HowGood, Inc. independently
rates the sustainability of food products. We’ve been working on our
label since 2006, and we’ve been buying different milk ever since.
believe that there is one critical question shoppers should ask
themselves: how good is the food that I’m buying for my family, my
environment, and the world? We agree with Mr. Bittman that in order to
answer that, we have to take a company’s commitment to environmental
friendliness, labor relations, and animal welfare into consideration. We
can’t neglect growing practices, food processing, and ingredient
sourcing. And we certainly can’t leave out nutrition.
the past six years we’ve researched all these metrics and more to come
up with a simple score for over 105,000 food products. The score is
embedded into the price tag of every product that passes our baseline
for “good.” (And in case you’re curious and in need of a sobering fact,
that’s less than 50% of whatever is in your basket).
the most interesting aspect of food labeling is one that Mr. Bittman
fails to touch on- the ability of sustainable food labeling to
fundamentally change the food industry. We’re in this business because
we believe that legitimate change happens when people power and
purchasing power intersect. A food product rated “great” averages an
increase in sales of 26%. That’s a huge loss
for its competitor, who is forced to recognize that their customers
actually care about sustainability. When that company calls us asking
what changes they can make to increase their rating, we feel pretty good
for the day. And when no one calls us anymore, because shoppers and
their food choices have edged out animal cruelty, poor farming
practices, and refined foods, our job will be done.
Mr. Bittman concludes that the main point in sustainable food labeling is: let’s get started. We already have.
The HowGood Team