Food For Thought

The folks at Eater provide our food for thought on this Foodie Friday.  They ran an interesting piece on 72 ways food can change the world.  It’s a collection of brief articles from chefs, farmers, scientists, and others.  It’s worth your time.

One piece that got me thinking was an interview with a food scientist from Washington State University.  This quote, in particular about working outside of the mainstream commodity system, resonated:

If you had a big truck with twenty tons of wheat and went to the grain elevator they would look at the stuff we work with and say, “That’s purple, that’s a different shape, and that doesn’t work for the commodity systems,” which are built on the notion of a huge amount of virtually identical, interchangeable product. By focusing on non-commodity varieties, we can pay attention to things like nutritional value and flavor—things that that big commodity farmers and programs tend to not care about. For them all that matters is yield.

There’s a great business point in there for all of us. The farmers with whom the professor works think about the game differently.  Rather than allowing the vagaries of the market to dictate their product they bypass the large, proven markets and focus on aggregating niche markets.  They control their product and find buyers as opposed to bowing down before the commodity system.  This gives them the freedom to improve the product – grain in this case – since they are not growing to product specifications imposed on them.

Over time, one or more of those niche markets may, in fact, become mainstream.  In other markets we might call them “early adopters.”  It’s not hard to remember when a high-definition television, a tablet computer, or a hybrid car were niches.  The “farmers” behind them didn’t try to make a mass-market product out of the gate.  They made something better knowing that if it was good enough the market would come to them.

Food for thought!

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