Suggestions: Trend-Forward Foods and Deliverable Vaccines

Norman Weiss, Weavers Way Purchasing Manager

Greetings and thanks for writing. As usual, suggestions and responses may have been edited for brevity, clarity, and/or comedy. In addition, no idea, concept, issue, remark, phrase, description of event, word, or word string should be taken seriously. This also applies to the previous sentence.

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“Trend-forward” is a buzzword I see frequently, in food marketing as if being “trend-forward” was a desirable product attribute in itself. In New Guinea, cannibalism was probably once “trend-forward.” Recently, I saw some products in a trade publication featured as “most creative trend-forward appealing and poignant items,” one of which was a chicken and donut sandwich from a well-known chain. Seeing things like this warms my heart, as it further reinforces my perception that much of our modern food system is ridiculous and almost nothing about it should be taken seriously.

Speaking of our modern food system, it is interesting to note that the infrastructure to manufacture and deliver tens of thousands of food products, many perishable, has existed for decades. Almost anyone anywhere in the U.S. can pick up their phone and get a hot pizza delivered to their house in 30 minutes. 7-Elevens will deliver Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. This is the country that can’t get vaccines to people? Maybe the vaccines should be a pizza topping.

suggestions and responses:

s: “What is the difference between ‘vegan,’ ‘plant-based,’ and ‘vegetarian?’”

r: (Norman) The term “vegan” was created in 1944 by Donald Watson, an English animal rights advocate, to describe a person who avoids using animals for ethical reasons, more of a lifestyle choice than diet only. In the 1980s, Dr. T. Colin Campbell introduced the term “plant-based diet” to define a low-fat, high-fiber, vegetable-based diet that focused on nutritional health without getting into ethics. “Vegetarian” is a dietary choice that typically excludes the bodies of animals but can include animal-derived products such as milk, cheese, and eggs. FYI, “plant-based” is considered “trend-forward” in the processed food world these days.

s: “Since the Co-op is about fairness and community, I’m wondering if the Co-op could take an official stand with Fairmount Park asking for examination of the rule that requires dog owners to pick up their dog’s poop, but the same rule does not apply to horse owners. I find this unjust.”

r: (Norman) It turns out not all animal poop is created equal. Horse poop is mostly water, and the solids are mostly grass and vegetation (horses eat a “plant-based” diet), easily processed by nature. Since dog food is a manufactured product and typically meat based, it has things like phosphorus and nitrogen that can contribute to pollution, not to mention pathogens that are not present in horse poop. We appreciate your concern for fairness.

s: “Any chance to replace those very heavily salted bulk cashews with unsalted or lightly salted (at Chestnut Hill)? I have to shake them in a strainer each week after purchase. Thanks.”

r: (Norman) Thanks for your feedback, we’ll look into it.

s: “I know that Weavers Way is a member owner of a cooperative group of co-ops, if I’m stating that correctly. However, I really feel that this is counterproductive in some respects. I know one of the goals of the Co-op is to support local producers. I always see major brands of yogurt, for example, advertised as specials. I resist buying them because I am very satisfied with Seven Stars organic yogurt that is produced about 20 miles from here. If I didn’t like that, Pequa is another option that is local. I believe it is within the goals of the Co-op to promote local businesses. I’m okay with providing options — for example, we are not so fond of Merrymead Farm milk, so I will buy Organic Valley. But why are we actively promoting a more corporate product that has to be trucked across many states rather than finding some way to support these local producers? I’m sure this is something that has been considered, but I really think that we should double down on supporting local producers of quality products.”

r: (Norman) You are right about Weavers Way being part of National Co-op Grocers (NCG), the organization that produces the biweekly flyer of large regional and national brand sales we offer. We (and all NCG co-ops) are basically required to participate. NCG sees their flyer as a way for co-ops to compete with Whole Foods and other competitors. I am not a fan, but that’s a whole other story, and it doesn’t matter, as we don’t have any choice. We did come up with our own Fresh Deals flyer, which offers us the ability to feature local brands. The problem here is twofold, though: For one, we mainly want to feature products available in all three of our stores, and you’d be surprised how often that is not possible. The reality is, as we learned after opening Chestnut Hill and even more after Ambler, what sells at one store may or may not sell in another store. The other issues involve pricing and availability; we don’t want to ask the small vendors to give up too much margin to put items on sale, nor do we want to give up too much margin. Ideally, the theory is, you make it up in increased sales, but there are questions about whether that’s really true. Plus, some small vendors — Zsa’s was good example — can’t even produce enough to sell more. Order cycles are also a factor: We can get most of the national brands in the NCG flyer three times a week, whereas we can only get most of the more local vendors once a week or less. It’s a bit of a balancing act to pick items that check all the boxes we need checked. After reading your comment, though, now I’m wondering if maybe we should create a sub-section of the Fresh Deals for local products. I’ll see what we can figure out.

s: “What would happen if a vote at a Weavers Way membership meeting was disputed? Are results audited?”

r: (Norman) Yes, results are audited by a novel process where dogs sniff the ballots and alert if any two smell exactly the same, or if one ballot carries the smell of two different people. We have a one-ballot-one-scent standard. If a dog alerts, that dog will trace the smell to the author of the ballot, and an investigation is launched by detectives doing their cooperator hours. This same system was in use in ancient democracies, it just wasn’t well documented because every person didn’t have a camera in their pocket like they do today.