Smart food shopping means being aware and doing your research

freedom of choiceWhen shopping at your local grocery, the options on shelves are sometimes so numerous it can make your head spin. We make choices every day based on several factors. Commercials, brand names, product placement, and sometimes we search out and try choose a smaller name, assuming we are supporting smaller, independent companies. But are we really? Are the products we purchase decisions of our own, or do the large box brand names have a hand in nearly every choice we make while purchasing our food?

Alex Hillsberg of Finances Online, has created a chilling info graphic that shows consumers that freedom of choice may simply be an illusion. While many of us do what we can to choose off label products, in the hopes of  assisting and supporting small business, we are more than likely supporting and financing the large box brand companies. When purchasing groceries in our local super markets, no matter how full the cart is, we are most likely supporting only 2 – 4 large corporations.

For instance, I was surprised to see that the following margarine or spreads were produced by only two companies:

Unilever

  • I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter
  • Shedd’s Country Spread
  • Imperial
  • Promise
  • Bummel & Brown

ConAgra Foods

  • Blue Bonnet
  • Parkay
  • Fleishmann’s

And our beer choices produce similar results. One company owns 86% of the market. Killians, Molson Canadian, Foster’s, Red Dog, Henry Weinhards and Cristal are just a small sampling of the labels that MillerCoors holds.

marketCompetition between companies seems to be a thing of the past. What can we do to combat the monopolization of our food industry by big box corporations? Do some research before heading to your local grocer. Find local, small companies that deliver their goods to the supermarket and consider purchasing those products in lieu of national brand names. Search your area for farmers markets and local farms that are open to the public. In the Puget Sound area there is an app called Puget Sound Fresh that assists in locating what’s fresh, local and in season. Look for recipes that call for in season fruits and vegetables and begin preparing foods from scratch.

The USDA reports there are 8,144 Farmers Markets across the country, up from 5000 in 2008. While that number is still small, it is growing. Search your listings and find what is available in your area. Supporting local markets and farms not only gives us healthy and fresh options, it feeds families in your area, and shows large corporations that we want goods that nourish our bodies. If we consistently purchase “junk in a box”, we will be presented with more of it. As companies see consumer spending shifting away from sugary, preservative filled products, they will give us with more of what we are actually spending our money on. In the end, what our options are, is up to us.

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