I was in the library last week, and found myself browsing the periodicals. Out of curiosity I picked up The Grocer, Britain’s leading magazine for food retailers. Wow. What another world. I definitely recommend scanning a copy next time you’re in a library or a newsagent.
Reading The Grocer brings home the desperate search for novelty in a consumer culture. Blue skittles, Heinz’s new ‘cucumber and dill’ limited edition salad cream, vodka made from an actual iceberg. There was an article praising PG Tips’ “major innovation” in restructuring their range of teas. Like the monkeys that PG Tips used to use in their commercials, we consumers are apparently easily entertained.
The magazine is also full of the language of ‘more’. Brands are unquestioningly celebrated for expanding their market share, which of course means squeezing out smaller independent competition and ultimately giving the consumer less choice.
It also begs the question, ‘how much food can we actually buy?’. Limitless amounts, says the Grocer. “The cheese category is worth £2.5 billion”, says one report on cheese. “Cheese is an exandable category where consumers will consume more if there’s always cheese in the fridge.”
Obviously the people that make and sell the cheese, or that write the magazine for that matter, they’re all just doing their jobs. But what a crazy system, where a quarter of UK adults are obese, and where we throw away a third of the food we buy, and where we have entire magazines dedicated to the art of making us buy more food.