There is an old sales maxim that says that people never want to buy aspirin… they just want the headache to go away. The point being made is that there is more than one way to solve a problem.
But I wonder, if it places too much emphasis on problem solving when it comes to consumer behavior. Do we really spend as if we want to end some form of pain? Or do we spend in pursuit of pleasure?
I think this may be related to one of the central disconnects in America’s food crisis. From a policy perspective, we have channeled our energy into the assumption that consumers need to be protected from pain… specifically hunger. So we produce a lot of calories, and we focus on those calories that can be produced inexpensively. All the better to feed a hungry world.
But let’s look around. Is hunger the issue today? Not in the United States, certainly. I don’t think we are drinking more soda, eating more chips, and topping more things than ever with bacon as a hunger avoidance strategy. Consumers are looking for pleasure in their food, even if they may not be looking in the best places.
I think this is why the artisanal food movement is gaining steam. Pleasurable food is something that people will spend money to get. As a farmer, I’m glad to see it. I can compete in a marketplace for enjoyable food at a fair price much better than a market for least cost commodity calories. So I’m all for artisanal, small-scale food production, whether it is Limoncello from Ventura or hipster pickles in Brooklyn.
Maybe pickles cure headaches, too.