For many years, consumers’ growing interest in natural and organic foods — and in healthier foods in general — has brought about changes in the kinds of products sold on supermarket shelves.
The changes have come as the upsurge in obesity and diet-related health concerns have led shoppers to learn how to replace conventional food choices with healthier options. Guiding that education process has been a proliferation of articles, books, TV shows and documentaries awakening consumers to dietary alternatives.
Mark Bittman, an author of many best-selling cookbooks and a columnist for the New York Times, has for many years been one of the key media influencers helping to shape consumers’ approach to their food shopping — and ultimately what retailers and manufacturers are providing. Others making a similar contribution — often highly critical of the food industry — include Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle, Eric Schlosser and Michael Moss.
“I totally agree there are a number of nutrition influencers in the media like Mark Bittman,” said Cathy Polley, vice president, health and wellness, Food Marketing Institute, Arlington, Va. “As shoppers are looking to make healthier food choices, they are seeking information from many areas.”
“I applaud Mr. Bittman for his weight-loss success and for his passion to preach the gospel of healthy eating and sustainable food practices in his New York Times column and blog,” said Barbara Ruhs, corporate dietitian for Bashas’, Chandler, Ariz.
Bittman gained renown in 1998 as the author of “How to Cook Everything,” which has sold millions of copies. He has since written many other highly successful food books, including his most recent work, “VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00.”
As a journalist, Bittman wrote the “Minimalist” column, which ran weekly in the dining section of the Times from 1997 to 2010. His column on the Op-Ed page of the Times as well as a column in the Times Magazine have appeared regularly since 2011.
In his first Op-Ed column, “A Food Manifesto for the Future,” he proposed a series of ideas — not many intended to endear him to the food industry — that “would make the growing, preparation and consumption of food healthier, saner, more productive, less damaging and more enduring.” They include “encourage and subsidize home cooking, tax the marketing and sale of unhealthful foods, and mandate truth in labeling.”
In a recent phone interview with SN, Bittman acknowledged that many food manufacturers “would be happier if I didn’t exist, though if it wasn’t me, it would be somebody else.”
Does Bittman see more healthy food options in supermarkets? “Some smaller chains have done that and Whole Foods has to some extent,” he said. “To the extent retailers think they can sell [healthier] stuff, they do; things have changed a little bit and they recognize that.”
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