Should consumers pay more for quality?
Many growers are eager to be compensated for the quality of the food they produce. To be compensated for quality means that quality needs to be quantified and measured. The idea of compensation also begs the question, should premium quality be marketed at a premium price, or should it be universally accessible? Should all produce be required to meet minimum nutritional quality thresholds?
I had an interesting conversation with Matt Kleinhenz on this topic in this podcast episode.
We should continue to focus on how a farm can become an instrument of public health, producing a more nutritious product, a more nutrient-dense product, a more flavorful product—a product that is more desirable to eat, simply because of its chemical, biological, or physical properties.
John: I’ve recently been a part of a number of conversations where growers are expressing the desire to improve nutritional value. Sometimes they use the language of “nutrient density” to talk about the improved nutrient density of food. My observations have been that for the most part, consumers and buyers at this stage aren’t really having that conversation—at least not on a large scale. An appropriate analog that they might be looking for would be flavor and aroma. But what have you observed? Do you think there is the potential in the future to have a major market demand for “nutrient-dense” foods?
Matt: Perhaps. First of all, nutritional value, or nutrient density, is a significant passion of mine, and I know it’s a significant passion for other investigators that I work with. Some of them are not in the so-called public light as an extension person, or as a grower/advisor, but they are working tirelessly and quite impressively towards a similar goal, but within their lane, regarding understanding what nutritional value is and how it can be enhanced. It is a big passion of mine.
To the second part of the question, I think we need to be very specific when we talk about the nutritional value and nutritional density. It’s a complex topic, and we don’t wave our hands and say that just because it’s complex that we can’t understand it, or that we shouldn’t approach it. No, quite the opposite. We should stay on task. We should continue to focus on how a farm can become an instrument of public health, producing a more nutritious product, a more nutrient-dense product, a more flavorful product—a product that is more desirable to eat, simply because of its chemical, biological, or physical properties. These are all parts of the process of enabling the food that we offer folks to play a larger role in maintaining or enhancing their quality of life, especially through their health status.
To the final point—will there be a market? Will there be a time when more people are paying more attention to this aspect? I think so, but we’re not there yet. I think that interest already is strong within a small community of eaters or a community of buyers. Where there are these so-called beachheads, there can be growth. Here in 2018, one-half of one percent of people might make decisions around nutritional value; some year down the road we might be able to say it’s 5 percent or 10 percent. In that increase there will be so many opportunities for enterprising growers to be a part of that process; it will become that much more noticeable