From the Sublime to the Ridiculous — a Bit of a Rant…

Lisbeth Echeandia
Direct Line: 903.965.9300

A friend of mine pointed out that the Fancy Food Show is rather elitist. After all, families with limited income are unlikely to shell out big dollars for esoteric food products and often aren’t in a position to afford the organic or natural products. I counter with the argument that a lot of specialty foods exhibited at the recent show in New York are only specialty when viewed from a present-day American point of view. Many of them are, in fact, just part of the regular food mix on their home turf or in the eclectic neighborhoods throughout our country.
It’s also true that we’ve seen many specialty products transition gracefully into American mainstream diets. There was no pasta 25 years ago — unless, of course, you were fortunate enough to be part of an Italian family or live in that neighborhood; and iceberg lettuce was the only lettuce you could find apart from in the major cities and perhaps on the farms. And then there’s the change and diversity in bread and the cuts of meat and the vegetables … There’s no shortage of variety and interesting foods available to the mainstream shopper these days.
And, of course, you have to love the entrepreneurs who make the yogurts, the goat cheese, the jams, jellies, baked good and confections that give you the opportunity to delight your taste buds and at the same time wonder how they came up with the idea. A visitor to the Fancy Food Show mentioned to me that he was delighted with the show and had thoroughly enjoyed visiting, exploring, seeing and tasting, and at the same time felt that “there are solutions being presented here to problems that I don’t think even exist.” I don’t really think it’s about solutions to problems, but rather about exploring opportunities and finding a niche.
Now for the ridiculous …
Then we move on to the somewhat ridiculous: the item at Kentucky Fried Chicken called the KFC Bowl, at around 720 calories for the serving, and then Pizza Hut’s P’Zone, with between 600 and 700 calories for half of one. These are, of course, geared to young males, who generally don’t worry much about calories, but I did find the emphasis on the “one pound of filling” a little off-putting. Then again, I don’t think I’m the target consumer! Fast food companies know their audience and have done a good job in the main part in offering items on their menus that meet the needs of many different customers. However, the emphasis on large servings or an even bigger bag of French fries still predominates and seems to be getting stronger again, judging from the TV commercials.
Confectionery is fortunately no longer the “bad guy” in the food world. Dark chocolate has helped a great deal, thanks to the increased awareness and good PR efforts on the part of manufacturers. And we seem to have come full circle with the knowledge that balance and moderation really are the answer.
It seems to me that the confectionery and snack industries should be part of promoting wellness and a positive relationship with food — all foods. We should work even harder to stop making food the enemy and stop using war words as weapons when dealing with lifestyle and behavior issues where eating becomes the perceived solution. The emphasis on “winning the war on obesity,” is an example of what I mean. Let’s stop the “bad food” movement. And if you hear a nutritionist giving a presentation about “disgusting foods” — yes, it really happened; it was the well-known speaker Zonya Foco, and donuts and Froot Loops were included — step up and say something in response. It may be all in fun, but it’s really not funny.