On the status of food in 2023


At the beginning of every year you will read about trends like botanicals in beverages or alternative chocolates, the continuing rise of plant based meats, robotics in food prep and the likes.

For a change we highlight the comparison of rich versus poor countries in terms of food quality, in our view the biggest trend for years to come.  

 In 2023 a dozen companies control the majority of food sales globally. As in any business, they optimize return on investment and care mostly about shareholder value, goals unabated by the Pandemic. According to the Guardian, corporations aren’t  plowing their profits into new investments to generate higher productivity in the future. They’re buying back their shares to boost stock prices. Through the end of 2022, American firms announced stock buybacks exceeding $1tn.

Upset about food costs in North America? Four giants now control over 80% of meat processing, 66% of the pork market, and 54% of the poultry market.

Worried about grocery prices? Albertsons bought Safeway and now Kroger is buying Albertsons. Combined, they would control almost 22% of the US grocery market. Add in Walmart, and the three brands would control 70% of the grocery market in 167 cities across the country. 

After an influx of subsidies to fight Covid the global population faces more hunger driven by consequences such as inflation, price increases due to logistics issues and renewed political block building between East and West. We see famine in low income families where a large portion of the monthly salary is spent on food. 

Food banks are struggling to feed those in need prompting calls for governments to do a better job in providing for their population.

At the same time the middle class faces increasing work pressure, has longer commutes and shorter lunch times. At home, less time spent cooking and shorter meals result in less social interaction, which was, is and will be a vital component of family life in post Covid times.

Less knowledge about food and its preparation also means less quality of life. We forget what grows when and where and loose essential contact to the area we live in. Without minimal knowledge of local agriculture and what nature in our immediate vicinity provides, we might as well live anywhere in the country, uprooting parts of ourselves.

Spending less time cooking and more time resorting to processed foods also results in less quality food due to the nature of capitalism. 

Convenience and prepared food producers profit the most from prefabricated meals, eaten either at home or in restaurants. 

A growing lack of qualified cooks in the hospitality business means more prefabricated, chemical laden components such as sauces and sides as well as low quality, ultra processed meats.

A look at any breakfast buffet in a five star hotel at a price of several hundred dollars a night reveals culinary decline:

Powdered egg, mystery meat bacon the texture of leathery paper, bread fit to seal windows with, the taste and texture of chalk. A food chemists challenge to guess those artificial flavors in muffins and cakes.

Ham made from pressed meat particles, glued together by an engineered protein. Coffee and tea do not deserve their name in those places.

According to a study in 1922 Americans ate 0.5 pounds of sugar and in 2022 it was 73 pounds. 

The reason is that sugar is a very cheap ingredient and at the same time humans are genetically hard wired to eat as much sugar as they can. Same with fat and salt. This double whammy of maximum profit and addiction guarantees more sales and higher profit for the food industry at the expense of consumers health.

Hence the continuing, though fruitless efforts of health advocates to tax sugar according to its gigantic and apocalyptic health impact. We expect half the earths population to be obese by 2100.

Finally we digest half a pound of micro plastics, mainly trough bottled water. We also eat a small bag of chemicals through the processed foods we consume, ten ounces each, per year.

Poor Latinos, Indians, Asians and Africans living in squalor do not have the means to buy processed foods, nor could they afford the extensive packaging.

Complete protein meals, such as rice and lentils or beans are cooked fresh, eaten with family, possibly with some spiced chili oil or roasted cabbage on the side.

This is the reason most poor people eat better than many rich people,  everywhere around the globe.

This is why we promote change through more regulation, encourage to buy locally grown food and share a home cooked meal. We love to see education for our kids on food, starting in elementary school.

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

Victor Hugo