Saturday, March 12, 2016

Where Do You Buy Your Chips?

“NAH, I DON'T shop at Aldi. Yes, chips and stuff are inexpensive there but I don't support huge corporations that sell us junk. They are evil! I go to Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. Sometimes Greenlife.” Good. My ramens budget is kinda limited too so I go to stores that sell them really low like 15 packs for 50 cents, with a $2 Slantshack Jerky coupon. Yeah. It's all economics to me. Health-wise, I let my weird logic take over. Inhalation of carbon dioxide and methane emissions a.k.a. carbon footprints a.k.a. greenhouse gas a.k.a. pollution—plus a dose too much of political campaign speeches—will kill me faster than two Cup-a-Noodles a week. But seriously, if we really want to improve or change consumer behavior with a goal of minimizing “poison” in our food, let's try to shake the source and support local growers and producers. That's a good start.

       But let me ramble first... Aldi and Trader Joe's, you see, are owned by the Albrecht brothers Karl and Theo of Germany. There are 10,000 Aldis in 18 countries and 457 Trader Joe's stores in the US, heaviest concentration in Southern California. Founded by a cool dude named Joe Coulombe in Monrovia CA, Trader Joe's—a market leader in organic and fresh food groceries in the US—has long been bought or acquired by Theo Albrecht. Damn goofy Theo, right? Meantime, Whole Foods Market Inc., a supermarket chain specializing in organic food, is a Fortune 500 company—the 30th largest retailer in the US. Some of its One Percenter investors are Vanguard Total Stock Mkt. Index and Harbor Capital Appreciation Instl. Think GMO, think Monsanto. Whole Foods is also the owner of Greenlife Grocery (located in my home city of Asheville).
       The boom in organic food has boosted sales over $32 billion annually and has led some of the nation’s biggest food companies—General Mills, Coca-Cola, Perdue, Kellogg—to acquire or take stakes in smaller organic outfits. To name a few: Hormel’s acquisition of Applegate Farms for $775 million; WhiteWave’s acquisition of So Delicious/Turtle Mountain for $195 million and Wallaby Yogurt for $125 million; General Mills’ acquisition of Annie’s Homegrown for $820 million; Pinnacle Foods’ acquisition of Boulder Brands (Earth Balance, Evol, Udi’s) for $975 million; Post’s acquisition of a number of cereal and egg brands (including MOM/Malt-O-Meal/Better Oats) for $1.15 billion; and JAB Holding’s acquisition of a number of coffee brands (Green Mountain Einstein Bros./Noah’s, Stumptown and Intelligentsia, Peet’s, and Caribou).
       That's just the way of the world, I guess. Remember those two kids who invented a Batman-laser instant-flash whatever you called it beamed on building walls to supposedly announce a “secret” Occupy convergence? Those kids are now under the employ of giant techno gods—collectively, these techno billionaires drop $5 billion a year for R&D budget alone, more than the annual national budget of my home country, the Philippines. Start-ups? Sell them to the big guys. Dig? I don't have any problems with that—I mean, I ain't gonna lose a good weekend's sex for that! Look, one day I will come up with 501 ramen recipes and maybe H.J. Heinz or Kraft Foods will be interested to buy me out, right? Then I will steal the title “Ramen King” from its inventor Momofuku Ando.
       Thing is, let's take it easy. We know who are damn selling us the good food and the bad food. The same Wiley E. Coyote on Brooks Brothers suit! Win win for the dude. Oh well, I wish organic produce and non-GMO stuff are more affordable than the poison brands, just like when I was a kid in an island-galaxy so far away. Open market produce and other meats and fish etc are a lot inexpensive than manufactured shit in groceries. Yet we weren't really paying much attention on “healthy” or non-pesticide/no-antibiotics reminder—it was all about economics. I mean, many times when I hear people say, I don't go to Walmart or I don't support franchises, I can't help but wonder out loud—are you saying we both hate the One Percent or you just want your shit healthy or organic? If your answer is the former, then—let's go to the tailgate market this weekend and buy some homegrown cabbages and okra. Life is cool when it is simple. Feel me?