Laura Wieking, Watershed’s Director of Artisan Foods, is recently back from a European excursion. Below, Laura recounts her experience of the French food system:
I recently traveled to Paris with my husband and 10-year old, and had the joy of experiencing urban living in the heart of the Latin Quarter for a week. As suburb dwellers, we rely on four wheels to get us from place to place (our neighborhood has a walkability score of 5, whereas my office downtown clocks in at 99), and it was a treat to enjoy car-less living while wandering the beautiful city by foot or the insanely easy to navigate Metro system. As bipeds, we felt more connected to the surroundings, and much more inclined to pop into shops or stop to sample street food staples such as crèpes and hot, roasted chestnuts.
We quickly noticed a distinct change in our shopping and eating habits. Not once during our trip did we indulge in snack foods while in our rented apartment. Nor did we stock up more than one day’s worth of food at a time. Our apartment was located next to the oldest market in Paris, the Marché Maubert, founded in 1547. Three times a week the lively outdoor market lured us in to purchase the freshest meats, produce, cheese and other goodies that oozed terroir and pure flavor. When we arrived “home” after a full day of sightseeing, it was a treat to split up and treasure hunt for al fresco balcony meals. Our son would handle the baguettes and pastries, I picked out delectable stinky cheeses and veggies, and my husband grabbed the wine and rotisserie.
Back home, I frequent our weekly farmer’s market, and I’m thrilled to see ventures such as the The Portland Mercado in Southeast Portland. We’re lucky to have access to fresh meats, produce, cheese, and wine, but many Americans, especially in the ‘burbs, are a long way off from the effortless access to fresh foods that Parisians enjoy. With consumers asking for more access to fresh, less-processed and unadulterated foods, the growth of disruptive grocery retail alternatives such as meal subscription boxes and small format specialty stores becomes clear. Consumers want what they want, and they are more successful than ever before to bend the market to their will.
American food & beverage companies should take notice of consumer trends:
Increase access to fresh, unprocessed food
Embrace convenience and access as a core company mission
Emphasize and build a sense of community around your product
Above all, share your story to connect consumers to the origins of their food