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I’ve been collecting these images over the last few months.  What is going on here?  When I saw the first such ad I had a cynical reaction: does [insert company name here] really expect me to be giddy about the fact that they finally took all that crap out of the stuff they were selling as food?  But then I actually did start to get excited, because I saw that something powerful and profound is behind all these ads.

As much as I would like to believe that Best Foods is adding cage-free eggs to their mayonnaise because they really truly care about their customers’ health, I know that this is an idealistic and unrealistic fantasy.  And I don’t really begrudge them for it…much.  Having owned my own business by now, I understand the power of the bottom line.  Money rules decisions most of the time, especially as corporations grow in size, and we know that soybean oil is cheaper than conventional eggs, which are cheaper than cage-free eggs.  We know that partially-hydrogenated oil is a cheaper way to fluff up baked goods than good old butter.

So why are these companies making decisions that cost them more money?

This is the exciting part, folks: the only reason I can come up with is that they are listening to us.  Not through focus groups or meaningful discussions (well, maybe), but primarily through the single most powerful way we can have a voice in America today – the way we spend our money.

For years and years friends and family have looked askance when I spend what seems like a lot of money on my food, or beauty products, or cleaning products.  And I have said again and again that I have to put my money where my mouth is, and that I can use my purchases to communicate to companies and the larger economy about what I want to see more of, what I am willing to support.  And I still stand by that belief 100%.  It’s exciting, really!  Because it means that I am far from powerless in my own world.

These companies are changing their ingredients because they see us wanting better quality ingredients in our food, and Best Foods, Starbucks, Haagen-Dazs and others are hoping that if they up the quality of their ingredients and tell us all about it, they can keep us as loyal customers.  Whether or not they will isn’t what concerns me – but the fact that we, the “small people”, are making a huge difference and being heard every time we go to the farmers’ market, or the local co-op, or the family farm down the road.  Every time we say no, we will not skimp on what we put into (or on) our bodies, we make an impact.

And see that other picture, of MOM’s Organic Market?  That’s a locally-owned, fantastic grocery store up the road from where I’ve been living and working in Maryland.  The first time I walked in, I was absolutely delighted to learn that they were in the midst of expanding their store to twice its original size so they could better accommodate their customers’ needs.  They are also in the process of phasing out the sale of plastic water bottles altogether – not because it makes for a good bottom line, but because it lines up with their values.  In this economy, with stores and businesses closing left and right, they must be doing something right.

Ah, capitalism!  Ain’t it great, folks?  🙂  God bless America indeed.  Happy 4th!

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