The social life of food #2 | buying our daily bread

easy as pie

Grocery shopping is something you put on the ‘to-do’ list, not a part of your social calendar. However, that was not always the case. Markets, the place where food was bought and sold, were places of social interactions and a place where news was spread. Now, we don’t have to shop every few days because we are able to store food for longer periods of time. Our ‘daily bread’ can become our ‘monthly bread’ – if we store it in the freezer.

Carolyn Steel, author of The Hungry City,  identifies the moment we pay for our food at the cash register as the last direct link we have with those who produce our food. But on top of that, our exchange with the cashier may also be the only social moment left in our process of buying food. Large supermarkets are rarely located in central parts of town with ample parking space so that we can load in a week’s worth of groceries. Once in the supermarket, most marketers have agreed on the best layout: vegetables at the entrance, candy at the cash register, and the smell of baked bread present throughout the store.

If we want to re-create our relationship with food we also need to re-think the way we design our (super)markets. My suggestions:

Stimulate explorers

Imagine entering a market where you can taste a sample of bread while faintly smelling the smoked meat from the butcher department or citrus fruit from the produce section… by increasing the sensory stimulation consumers will be stimulated to try new things.

Increase in-house knowledge

A market used to have salesmen to explain what a product was and how it could be prepared. Increase the information available for consumers about how to prepare food so that they are challenged to try different things. Knowledgeable store staff can increase the sociability of the shopping experience.

Increase traceability

Allow consumers to question where the product comes from and be curious about their food.

image from here

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