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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Addicted to the idea of convenience?

Every year the food industry looks at the top new products and trends. Taste trumps most, but convenience is typically the next attribute that influences our purchases.  I wonder if we are taking what we think is convenient a bit too far and hurting our own pockets, health and the environment? What is the true price we pay that we choose not to think about?

Know that there is always a price for perceived convenience even if in reality the convenience benefit is small.  What really drives your purchase? Are you driven by saving money? Saving your health? Saving the environment? I ask you to consider how much of your time are you really saving when you make a choice for convenience.

Let's have some fun with this by first recognizing that food companies are in the business of making profits by providing perceived benefits. That means that you will pay more money for perceived convenience not necessarily actual convenience. You get to chose if the benefits are appealing to you but unfortunately for you, you rarely consider the consequences.

An example of this is buying frozen scrambled eggs in a carton from the freezer which is about the cost of a dozen eggs for just a few. This is because you are paying for the packaging and are buying "breakfast" ready made in a box that sadly you will likely not recycle. You rationalize that you saved money over the cost of buying breakfast away from home. Instead of paying $0.60 for 2 eggs you paid $3-$4 for a refrigerated or frozen egg breakfast that you still heated or at least the same price eating out (and waited on line or for your food, etc. etc.). I personally would rather know the chickens have free range and some quality of life and put my money there. The truth is that you didn’t save more than a minute of time over preparing an boiled or fried egg and it cost you more.  Did your health benefit? Nope. And yes, you were a cost to the community and environment due to packaging.

Another example: You buy "light” juice. Why? So manufacturers can add water to the juice so you don’t have to. When they add the water to the juice, they have to pay by weight to transport products, you pay as much for a product that is all juice as one that is watered down. You can buy fresh juice, add a touch of the juice to your carbonated water and you have the equivalent of flavored sparking water. It’s really a win - you consume less sugar, use one less plastic bottle, save money and spend about one minute more - the time it takes to fill your filtered water pitcher or pour from two bottles instead of one and maybe wash one glass rather than drink from the bottle.

You are also paying for manufacturers to ship water in plastic bottles to you. They make it inexpensive by using cheaper, thinner plastic which is usually not as good for you and the earth. But you want water to be inexpensive. Who is paying for the packaging and shipping? There is always a cost. Is buying cases of plastic water bottles for “convenience” worth sacrificing your health and the environment? The water often sits in the back of your car exposed to light and heat. The plastic can then leak BPA into the water you drink. You stay away from canned foods because of your fear of BPA but drink water and juices from the plastic bottles leaking BPA. Is this the price you want to pay on a regular basis to save the minute it takes to use a filtered water pitcher and pour the water or juice into a glass or metal bottle?

If you don’t care about the money and you are not really saving time, could it be that we all have developed some less than ideal habits in the name of convenience that have hidden costs to your health and society because they are not visible to you in the moment? 

1 comment:

  1. You are providing excellent and thoughtful advice. Anyone who wants to save money, eat a healthy diet and help the Earth along the way should read this post.

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About Me

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First trained as a food chemist and nutritionist, my career began enriching a Twinkie, comparing the nutrition of a Twinkie to an apple and studying the role of sugar in the diet. With an M.B.A. and years in food and pharma understanding consumers and manufacturers led back to where I started - food should taste great and serve to keep us healthy. To do so there needs to be consumer awareness. Consumers need to vote for what they want by buying what they really want. They need to practice balance and responsible choices. That's when change will come. Please engage me with your conversation so that I can help you make better food choices that you enjoy and gain a deeper appreciation of food not only from farm to table but farm to health. My vision is to promote solutions to marketing healthful food and food practices.