We're doing a show on supermarkets today - from a supermarket!
Most Americans still buy most of their food from a supermarket. While farmer's markets and specialty stores offer organic and local alternatives, large-scale supermarkets still offer more convenience, the lowest prices and a seemingly endless variety of choices. Their big wide aisles with neatly stacked and eye-catching packaged products are hard to resist.
Yet, times are a-changin and supermarkets are struggling to keep up. One faction of a new generation of consumers wants online shopping, more prepared foods and cashier-free stores that track purchases through cameras and sensors. The other faction wants to get back to the personal service of the community grocer who offers organics, locally-grown food, and the community-building third spaces that reject a less personal world.
But supermarkets still have a few psychological tricks up their aisles. They know how to give our brains a sensory experience that triggers the complex set of emotions and memories we associate with food. Sometimes, we recognize it, like when that roasting turkey reminds us of Thanksgivings past. Sometimes, we don't.
Like a lot of people, I like going to the grocery store. There's a comfort to the accessibility of food, a sense that as long as stores are filled with food - and accessible to all - the world will be okay.
Also this hour: Did you know our earliest supermarkets were used as a weapon in World War II?
- Chris Prosperi - Chef and co-owner of Metro Bis restaurant in Simsbury
- Shane Hamilton - Senior lecturer in International Business and Strategy at the University of York and the author of most recently, Supermarket USA: Food and Power in the Cold War Farms Race
Special thanks to Highland Park Market in Farmington and store manager, Brian Gibbons.
Colin McEnroe contributed to this show, which originally aired on December 26, 2018.