Scan women’s online dating profiles — which I have done as a recently single man — and you will be struck with the commonalities. Seems just about all of them love yoga, eat healthy, meditate, work out 5-6 days per week and volunteer in their free time.
I know, I don’t believe it either, but something has changed in our culture and it’s reflected in everything from Match.com profiles to designer Birkenstocks.
“The hippies have won,” reported the New York Times in April 2017, describing a theme that has cut across multiple facets of society and bodes well for fruits and vegetables. What was once counterculture is now mainstream, including ideas and products surrounding health, wellness and eating that play out like a flashback to the early 1970s.
Take granola, for example. The site of it caused Woody Allen, in the 1973 movie “Sleeper,” to proclaim: “It has to be good for you, it tastes terrible.” Today granola is a supermarket category worth nearly $2 billion a year. Kombucha was something your art teacher might have made in her basement. Today, the company GT’s Kombucha brews more than a million bottles annually and sells many of them at Walmart and Safeway.
But today’s “healthy is good” vibe is also more modern and refined.
Vegetables are no longer just boiled and buttered, especially in restaurants. Professional chefs and home cooks alike are building “veg-centric” offerings using cooking techniques like braising, smoking and marinating fruits and vegetables — techniques previously reserved for proteins. Post hippie-era staples also include organic, whole grain breads and brown rice.
Despite the often-higher price tag, many are willing to pay more for these new foods.
Supermarket baskets are spilling over with fresh and organic ingredients. You can even have healthful foods delivered right to your doorstep.
Today’s newest phenomenon, meal kit services like Hello Fresh, Sun Basket, Plated and others, integrates fresh and organic offerings, as they have become expected and appreciated. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic produce sales in the U.S. reached $47 billion in 2016 and organic food can be found in more than 82% of households nationwide. At the same time, foods grown conventionally still account for almost 95% of all food sold.
I’d like to think Alice Waters, the chef credited with creating California cuisine, which integrates multiple cooking styles and freshly prepared ingredients, would be proud as consumers fill up on their deliciously prepared veggies.
These trends show consumers are more willing than ever to embrace foods that contribute to good health. As members of the produce industry, we’re in an enviable spot and should take pride in offering a variety of foods to consumers. Today, people want choices, and as an industry, it’s our responsibility to meet consumers’ evolving desires.
An advertising slogan for cigarettes in the 1970s proclaimed: “you’ve come a long way, baby” — and we certainly have.
Tim York is CEO of Salinas, Calif.-based Markon Cooperative. Centerplate is a monthly column on “what’s now and next” for foodservice and the implications for produce. E-mail him at email@example.com.