The future of food

Stop and take a look at what you’re wearing for a second. A shirt? Pants? Shorts or a skirt? Most likely it was stitched in a factory far away, shipped to wherever you live, and bought at a retail outlet for anywhere between $10-100, with a majority of the price accounting for the overhead and the marketing of the ‘brand’ rather than any significant differences in raw material or production costs. Nothing here is news to most of us, buying clothing from a store is the most ordinary thing for us, as is the multitude of brands, styles, and price points available, and is in fact a decent majority of what we refer to as ‘shopping’.

Except none of this was the case even just a hundred years ago. Your Depression era great grandma most likely wore clothes stitched at home, and unless you were part of the ‘gilded’ from the Gilded Age, so did her parents before her etc etc. But in just a couple of generations you’d be hard pressed to find anyone around you that makes their own clothes, no matter how frugal or fashion conscious they might be (statistically more people raise their own chickens).

So what changed? Mostly that clothes became a lot cheaper to produce en masse in factories (first in the US, then eventually abroad) making people realise no one really cared all that much about making their own clothes in the first place. There were massive new economies of scale with producing tens of thousands of clothes together at the same time, leading to much lower prices and a host of other advantages. It freed up more time: Why spend a weekend at home making and altering a single dress when an afternoon at an outlet mall could accomplish the same for the whole family at a lesser cost and better value? It also led to the rise of the whole apparel industry- we started desiring new clothes at greater frequency and in more unique styles, and a whole host of clothing brands and retail concepts sprung up to cater to that demand.

We’re at a similar point in the food production cycle today. If you’re skeptical you’ll ever be further intermediated from your food, remember it’s already happened to to the majority of the food production cycle.  A 150 years ago 85% of humanity worked in agriculture. Today almost none of us grow our own food. We don’t catch our own fish or grow our own corn, but we don’t even so much as pick our own berries or even fillet our own chicken. Most of the food cycle is already professionally produced and managed, and it’s only a little time before the last mile of picking up groceries and cooking them goes that way too.

How to win a commodity business war (without resorting to price)

Okay, so you’ve realised your business is in a good place- it’s building a product people clearly want and it’s growing rapidly. The problem? What you’re selling is a commodity and other companies are hot on your heels selling the exact same thing. You tell yourself it’s not the ‘exact same’, you have ‘extra features’ that differentiate you, you have a better design or some other thing like that, but deep down you know you’re just splitting hairs, and that effectively you’re just Expedia and Priceline, and for all the multiple brands you own and market, you’re just selling the same airline tickets and hotel rooms. What do you compete on here?