I walked into a big box supermarket for the first time in ages today. I've got to say that it was a shock to the system considering that I've grown all my vegetables this year and I buy my meat and dairy direct from a small family farm. Upon entering the supermarket I felt like the whole place was shouting at me, each item desperately competing for my attention, trying to distract me down a long aisle and disorient me to the point that I'd be wandering around in a daze, susceptible to all sorts of ill-advised purchases. I found the whole place impersonal, overwhelming, uncomfortable and alien. The store was massive, just completely overextended with too many choices of food-like substances filling the aisles.
Let's take the butter section for example because this is indeed Eat More Butter and butter was in fact the item I needed to purchase. It took quite a few minutes of wandering through the store to even find the butter section but once I did I stood dumbfounded. Take a look…
Where is the butter? Seriously, where is it? In this wall of butter-esque products, less than a quarter of what you see is actual butter. It's located in the bottom left, not even at eye level. The rest of what you see are butter substitutes made to look and taste like butter with different combinations of ingredients both real and chemical. This isn't a post about the why you should always choose real butter (I think our blog title makes my stance clear though if you need more information, click through to Why Butter Is Better by Sally Fallon Morell and Mary G. Enig), this is a post about the American supermarket.
If you extrapolate the statistics of the butter section (1/4 butter, 3/4 fake butter) to the rest of the supermarket, what do you have? TOO MUCH of very bad things. It's hard to see the actual food between all the processed and imitation foods clogging the aisles. Having choice is all well and good but frankly, it shouldn't take 10 minutes to walk to the other side of the store. If you distilled the supermarket down to its essentials - fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, eggs, dairy, grain - it really wouldn't be very big at all, probably about a quarter of the size if not smaller!
Instead we could drop the "super" and just call it what it is - a market, a grocery store, a place to buy real food. And that indeed would be super.
Over to you - has anyone else spent some time away from the big box American supermarket and walked back into it with new eyes? Have supermarkets lost your business? Where do you like to do your food shopping?