Editor’s Letter: March 2013
By Laura Aiken
There’s been a lot of talk about small bites. Small indulgences,
miniature everything, single-serve – you name it, and I think the bakery
industry figured how to zap it with Rick Moranis’ gadget in Honey, I
Shrunk the Kids.
There’s been a lot of talk about small bites. Small indulgences, miniature everything, single-serve – you name it, and I think the bakery industry figured how to zap it with Rick Moranis’ gadget in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Some people want smaller portions of things for health reasons, and of course we know mini-anything is cute (insert imagined teacup puppy here). There is also a real need to address the growing number of one- and two-person households in this country as well as the possibly, but not necessarily, related abundance of food that is ending up in the trash. The bakery industry has made many efforts by producing more cakelettes, mini-pies, demi-baguettes and the like. But still, much of our caloric production goes to waste.
The 2011 census saw a first for Canadian stats: the number of one-person households exceeded the number of couple households with children under age 24. The number of one-person households increased by 10 per cent from 2006 to 2011. Households without two adults but with no children are also increasing in number, and make up a larger percentage than those with kids (29.5 per cent versus 26.5).
Plus, we’re throwing out more food than ever, according to recent research. In October of 2012, CBC ran a story detailing the results of The Cut Waste, Grow Profit draft report from the Ontario-based Value Chain Management Centre (VCMC) that suggested 51 per cent of the estimated $27 billion of food wasted in Canada ends up as discarded leftovers in the dump. A consumer expectation of larger portion size was cited as one of the reasons for the waste. This certainly goes against all the small portions talk. The relatively inexpensive nature of modern day food supply and confusion over when stuff goes bad were also to blame.
We’re running smaller households and throwing a lot of stuff out. These two problems may or may not be correlated, but the possibility that they are is food for thought. In any case, I am sure the root of waste in Canada runs far deeper than this. We’re affluent and we have the excesses to show for it. Yet, a person spending less money on food is not a suggestion I propose here.
We’ve been trained by the club-pack mentality to believe we are saving money by buying bigger quantities. I am guessing the club-pack system is financially profitable or Costco wouldn’t have become the behemoth it is. But it goes against the concept of waste not, want not and against the notion that North America needs to rethink its serving sizes. I find, for myself anyway, that when I buy something in bulk I have a driving need to consume it faster than I would a modest amount. It’s a mentality caterers are familiar with, as they know they need to plan to keep those bowls full because people are shy about taking the last of anything. Yet, give us a mountain of something and by golly we’ll be up to our elbows in no time. It is by moving away from the club-pack mentality that people will still spend yet consume less.
The baking industry can show Canadians what a future of less waste could be. It could be a future built on quality first. We don’t want people to spend less money on food. We want them to spend more money on higher-quality food. If we consume less but spend the same or more, we will waste less and further develop our appreciation for not only the finer things in life, but also nutrition. It’s happening (slowly) and the bakery industry are becoming innovators of it. Small is often associated with luxury. Most of us don’t buy two-pound cans of foie gras from their nearby bulk outlet or store a whole leg of finely aged Niagara prosciutto. When more Canadians come around to appreciating a fine apple the same way they appreciate a fine wine, we’ll be in much better shape as a whole. The only way to stop a throwaway culture is to increase the value of its products in the eyes of its consumers. We live in a shamefully wasteful society, when you think about it. The baking industry should be proud of itself for the adaptations and innovations it has made to treat its products with pride and instill that value in consumers. Bakery, patisserie and chocolate are well positioned to lead the way to a better food future.