Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mega food manufacturers go local?

While many of us consider local food to be food grown within a certain range close to home, it also invokes the idea of sustainable agriculture, small, family farms and low environmental impact. Well, mainstream food manufacturing has started to co-opt the term "local", hoping to take advantage of this buzz word that has gained in popularity as consumers attempt to understand better where their food comes from. In other words, getting to know their producer by buying their food at farmers markets, local farm stands and the like.

When Frito-Lay and other mega manufacturers, who have more to do with junk food than sustainable agriculture, announced they were coming out with advertising campaigns to capitalize on this latest trend, many in the local food movement have been less than pleased. Sure, they are advertising the fact that the companies are buying produce and meat local to their manufacturing plants, the end result from the consumer's standpoint is anything but. Unless you happen to live near one of these mega-processors, those chips are still not going to be "local".

From their press release:
In addition to the national and regional television spots, the "Lay’s Local" campaign will be supported by a comprehensive marketing effort that celebrates the local connections of the brand through national print advertising, on-pack messaging and 40,000 in-store displays that are customized for each participating state to celebrate local connections and contributions to Lay's Potato Chips. The brand also will participate in more than 50 local-market events throughout the country celebrating the local communities that play a role in making Lay's Potato Chips.

On one hand, they are lowering the total food miles involved in the manufacturing process. Or are they? Based on Frito-Lay's press release it looks like they have changed little in the way of how they obtain their potatoes, they are just marketing the proximity of their source farms. They've made no changes in the way they grow the potatoes as far as I can tell either. Just another incidence of jumping on the bandwagon and beating the meaning out of it.

What do you think? Do you feel this is misrepresentation by greedy corporations or is this a step in the right direction to more sustainable food, by letting people know where the food source is located?

Image courtesy of The Onion

28 comments:

Amber said...

This is total misrepresentation. It doesn't surprise me at all that manufacturing plants would be located near to the food source. Industrial land is often rural or semi-rural, just like farms. And anything that you can do to reduce shipping and so on will reduce the cost of manufacture. So that's just good sense.

But the factory isn't local to me. Plus, the point of local food is that it isn't processed and packaged, and doesn't contain chemicals. I want to meet the farmers so that I know the food is grown in an ethical and sustainable fashion, not just so that I know they're nearby.

It's so disappointing how terms like 'organic' and 'local' are being eroded.

Carrick said...

Um, yeah, besides the fact that it's still not local to the consumer, which defeats the whole point, they're still a corporation making junk food, so this doesn't really seem like effective greenwashing to me.

Anna M said...

Completely false advertising. However, who eats that stuff? Ewwwww.....

j.c. said...

That picture of the semi truck made me laugh out loud!

Greenpa said...

It's an ancient technique; summarized playfully as "if you can't lick'em, join'em."

In fact it's not playful at all, it's called "co-opting".

And it's really extremely effective.

ruchi said...

Well, I think its a symptom of some of the problems with terms like organic, local, etc. So, no I wouldn't consider a local Frito-lay potato a particularly sustainable option.

However, frankly, I think all food should list where it is sourced from. I think it should maybe even be required. If all food listed where it came from, it might make people think a little more. So anything that increases consumer information is a step forward in my book.

Carrick said...

Yeah, I noticed the words on the truck right after I posted. HAHAHA!

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen) said...

On a recent trip over the UK, I was using the internationally renowned public facilities (aka McDonald's) and something caught my eye on the way out. They have this earthy little booklet for customers about the local farms that make up the meal at McDonald's. Not sure I buy that the little girl in her red rain boots holding a muddy potato was harvesting for those horrific sugar and salt coated fries- but I appreciated the attempt.

Karen said...

I know that I am frustrated by it. We happen to have a potato chip manufacturer within 100 miles, and their potatoes probably are also within the distance, but nothing else will be and they still use pesticides and other crap in their growing/processing. Since they are local, I have a never ending `arguement' with my husband because he wants to eat chips. It's the same with the microbreweries. He seems to think they are local because they are brewed here. Now, if companies start advertising local, even when they aren't, I will really struggle to keep peace in my house.

We struggle so much to make inroads into the way that our food is produced, and then we are forced backwards because we are being successful. It's frustrating.

One possible benefit is that it may raise awareness and mainstream people will start thinking about what `local' means. Many people are only now starting to eat organic, and it's partly because it's becoming more mainstream. Yes, the foods available won't be truly local, but maybe people will start thinking about it more.

http://100milesofcalgary.blogspot.com/

Cheap Like Me said...

Oh, brother. I suppose it falls under "anything to make a buck." Real locavores will realize that local means "local to the consumer," but the marketing department must have missed it. Now if they can make eco-friendly mini-plants in everyone's neighborhood ... wait, that's a bad idea.

As to "who eats this stuff" -- probably more people do than don't. Wow.

eatclosetohome said...

Ok...while I agree there is little to really cheer about in a local strip-mined, pesticide-laden potato chip, I don't think this is false advertising. If Lay's potato chips are made from Michigan potatoes in a Michigan factory using salt mined in northern Ohio (verdict is out on where the oil comes from), yes, this is, in fact, a "local" product for me. "Local" is not the be-all, end all. "Local" does not mean "sustainable." "Local" does not mean "healthy" or "organic" or that a foodstuff has socially-redeeming qualities. It means it's from my general geographic area.

I'm savvy enough to know that's all it means. Frito-Lay isn't pulling one over on me. They say the potatoes for the chips are from my state? Cool. I might even buy Lay's chips over some organic Terra Chips made from taro roots shipped from South America. And I might just buy some organic spuds from the farmer at the market and eat them with homemade butter.

Farmer's Daughter said...

I'm going to go with Michael Pollan's suggestion: if it says it's healthy, it's not.

If a bag of chips says it's local, it's not. Local foods at the farmer's market don't says "local" because there's no package.

The problem is that most Americans will jump at the chance to buy "local" chips, and won't be educated enough to know different.

Jenette said...

Well they want $$ and they want to save $$. I do have a Frito-Lay Mfg plant less than 50 miles from me and saving the environment is not there goal. It IS to reduce waste, packaging, and energy ... its good for the environment ... but first and foremost it saves $$. We eat there sun chips ... too much packaging :( but they use solar for the manufacturing. So I guess I am saying they are trying :)

SusanB said...

It's saavy/dastardly marketing, but I don't think it's a misrepresentation, at least in the appropriate areas. "Local" is a geographic indicator. It has become associated with other concepts, green, sustainable, small farm, natural. So I agree with eatsclosetome.
But even if you eat junk food made locally you still save the carbon emissions associated with transporting stuff across the ocean.

I used to work for Green Giant in the summer when I was a student.
We canned and froze peas and corn, all grown locally, which of course is why the plant was built where it was built. When GG stopped leasing land/contracting with farmers whatever to grow peas and corn, they closed the plant or vice versa. You could also buy the corn ears from a big heap, 13 ears/$. Everyone in town considered it a local product. And certainly a lot of family farms relied on the income associated with growing those crops.

And now NJ is marketing the "Jersey Fresh" label for NJ produce in processed foods, canned tomatoes and frozen breaded eggplant.

Robj98168 said...

What did one potato chip say to other?
Frito Lay?
Thanks for giving me the oppurtunity to use one of my favorite elementary school jokes!

Green Bean said...

Misrepresentation. Totally. I'm sorry but how can Frito Lay's potato chips be the next step in our food chain back to the farmers' market? Just don't see it.

Lisa Sharp said...

Wow, this is just false advertising but I do have to say I'm glad they are going to make a compostable bag for Sun Chips, though I do want to know what it's made of before I get to happy.

Also they have teamed up with Terra Cycle but I still wouldn't say they are green or sustainable but we have to be careful because we will get more out of them if we praise them for the good, or I at least think we will lol.

Jenette said...

@Lisa Sharp

That is great to hear the bag will be compostable ... that will almost stop my nagging my husband for buying chips LOL!

"... I'm glad they are going to make a compostable bag for Sun Chips, though I do want to know what it's made of before I get to happy."

Crunchy Chicken said...

Here's a link for reading more about the compostable Sun Chips bags.

I thought they were going to be made out of that plastic crap that breaks down into tiny particles, but it's actually really cool stuff: it sounds like the plant based polymers completely break down.

If that's the case, I hope that other manufacturers follow suit. Think about all those plastic bags that could be kept out of the wastestream... cereal box liners, chip bags, the list is fairly endless.

Anonymous said...

I find this interesting, because it means the industrial food world is running scared.

The growing preference for locally grown and produced food is a direct response to the industrialization and degradation of our food supply, and this kind of thing won't fool the growing number of eaters who are paying attention.

Anonymous said...

We should all collectively 'THANK' Frito lay, for their spending on a multi-million dollar ad campaign raising the awareness of the American public about local goods... (even if it is tinged with a copious helping of green paint...).

They will do what locavores are attempting to educate the public in a much faster manner... and at no expense to local farmer's markets...

Once, consumers start really thinking about supporting local producers, I would say a certain percentage of consumers will do the green washing math and come to the conclusion that 'real' local is the way to go...

Welcome new Frito Lay locavores, we are glad to see you....!

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Frito Lay marketing...

I remember seeing one of their print ads a couple of years ago depicting the naturalness of their potatoes being harvested...

by caucasian farmer like people (models) walking around a potato field picking potatoes off the top of plants like potatoes were growing like apples...

It was rather hilarious. I am trying to locate a copy of this ad, so if anyone has seen this, I would love to see a link to it...

Thanks!

Allie said...

I don't see a problem with this. You (in the editorial sense) know if there's a Frito Lay plant near you. If there isn't one, then it's obvious that the products they're using are local to THEM, not to you. In a time where people are constantly asking where their food is coming from, this is a direct response to that inquiry. No misrepresentation there.

wonkydonkey said...

Ugh. Marketing campaigns drive me crazy! What folks often forget that the only reason to market is to sell your product. And the bigger the company, the harder they have to push --- so they take more liberties in their claims. They tell you what you want to hear, plain and simple (anyone who doesn't believe this need only look at a package of Red Vines and see the big "FAT FREE" stamped across the label, as if this makes the candy a nutritious snack).

Calling their chips local? Puh-lease. I understand the potatoes or corn, but like it's already been pointed out: it isn't surprising to have a manufacturing plant near the farms. But how about the oil? Salt? Sugar? Food coloring? Flavorings? Those things are trucked in from all over. And let's not forget the packaging.

And there is no mention of the storage facilities, transfer points, truck depots and warehouses between said manufacturing plant and my grocery store.

Jaimelees said...

I love that these companies really think people are that dumb. I do feel sorry for people who know the terms but not the definition and movement behind it because they will buy it. Just like they were buying buckets of "transfat free" KFC chicken thinking it was actually fat free chicken.

Emily said...

I agree with some of the other posters that I like to see when mainstream starts promoting these ideas. I agree about the hollowness of it and the money-ness of it. Most people need sustainability 101 and environmentalism 101.
I met a guy at friend's birthday party that was proud to say that recycling was just too much trouble - why bother.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that if that idea sells or is promoted then in general that is a good thing. Society has to take these baby steps.
The hardcore folks - sustainability 601 (masters course.. heh heh) will continue to be savvy to the flashing green advertisements.

Laura said...

It's bullshit is what it is. Total greenwashing bullshit.

LynnieBee said...

Hey! I just started reading your blog! Honestly, in regard to Lays new *Local* Marketing, I feel my intelligence has been more than a little insulted...grrr

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