Never more than now have eaters asserted and witnessed their power over the food industry. At minimum, every eater is a part of the food industry from the consumption end. Growth in organic, local, sustainable, humane and clean label production is undeniable. Streams of investors, technical service providers, and food entrepreneurs of all kinds entering at all points along the industry spectrum are unprecedented. Far-reaching media pieces like Fortune’s “The war on big food”, John Oliver’s Food Waste (HBO) episode, and Michael Pollan’s recent PBS film have done much to raise eaters’ understanding of the food system and how their choices effect it.
Looking ahead to 2016, as we cannot help but do on December 31, eaters might reflect on their food journeys. Eater entrepreneurs regularly do so, seeking to understand where their food comes from, and the health and harm impacts associated. Eater entrepreneurs do not shy away from the wickedly complex systems and dynamics hovering over their plates, but lean in to ask better questions. Such eaters, a colleague would say, have learned to “fall in love with the problem” as a preliminary and constant component of their eater-entrepreneurial efforts.
So, eater entrepreneurs, what did you learn this year about the food system that you did not know before? What shocked you? What delighted you? What cause or dynamic has become most important to you? What products, services or initiatives have most drawn and held your attention? What values motivate that attention?
While so much remains wrong, never before have we come so close to understanding the systemic interconnections and waves of influence that ripple through what we eat, when and where, and from whom. Never before have the pathways to understanding been so well paved.
While Chipotle’s food safety scares and Mast Brothers’ chocolate drama may have made some recent dings in the once pristine facade of alternative food, this Examiner maintains that neither will slow the flow of the “multi-billion dollar alternative food economy” (or what many have deemed the “good food movement”) into the mainstream kitchens of America. We simply know too much: in particular, the extent to which our food is tangled up in our personal, public and planetary health.
And so this Examiner wagers that 2016 will be the year of the eater entrepreneur. Alert, tuned in and curious, the eater entrepreneur will continue to explore, ask great questions, taste new things, connect dots, and ultimately choose better food. Along with way, she will influence her families and communities to do the same. And together, we will progress in our commitment to eating the change we want to see in the world.