business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

We’re fond of running eye-openers here at MNB to talk about things that catch our eyes and seem to have some relevance to share or consider. Every now and again we find a story that’s really an eye-closer; something we wish simply wasn’t true or that we could avoid reading.

But those are the stories we need to consider the most.

The Associated Press is out with a study that paints a truly unhappy picture of America in 2013, where four out of five people live in fear of falling into poverty or actually in poverty at some point in their lives.

It’s an article filled with countless details that I wish were somehow untrue, such as the incredible rates of out-of-wedlock births, failed marriage or simply the general collapse of optimism and families. Plus, it also paints a picture of poverty in this new global economy that just makes you pause, with its impact across the spectrum of races and ethnicities that make up the US population.

Here’s why it’s a story I think the food industry needs to consider. The simple reality is that it is a business that serves the entire population, which means the economic realities of the masses quickly become the economic realities of the industry. There are simple reasons why value shopping has become so important. There are simple reasons why discount operators and products are growing.

Economic insecurity leads people toward frugality. And since food shopping is so important and options are available, it’s a prime place for bargain hunting behavior. (It’s also an interesting follow up to the article MNB ran on Monday about the stark food choices faced by many Americans that quickly explain why eating healthier isn’t the top priority in many cases.)

There’s little the food industry can do to change this dreadful situation. As the AP article makes clear, the issues involved require a serious and extensive discussion of many elements of economic policies in the country.

Good luck with that.

So the food industry faces a growing challenge in understanding the value-based shopper and the insecurities driving their most important need every day: having enough to eat. I’ve got a sad feeling this is an issue we’ll be discussing and following for years to come.

Certainly, it’s something we need to keep viewing with open eyes. Even if we wish we could shut them.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@mnb.grocerywebsite.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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