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Is Artisan Food Just Another Marketing Scheme…?

Hello again my loyal Chef Fan’s! This week we moved more into the modern day and started to look at some of the current trends in food like Artisan. Enjoy….

  1. Consider the questions raised in the first paragraph (Are these products, ideas, or directions new and different, or are they a smart marketing image cultivated to sell more volume? What do we mean by artisan? Are there historical examples from the state’s past we might identify in the same way? Or might they be all of these?). See where they may intersect with the next set of questions and ideas.

When we talk about Artisan foods the first things that comes to my mind are items like bread and cheese, but considering the fact that these items are made using old world ideas I can’t say that they are new. Granted these old ideas are becoming new again as people start looking for that “new” thing to make their product stand out. This trend of being artisan isn’t limited to just small farmers as major chains like Dominoes and Panera Bread are starting to advertise new artisan product lines.

What then is Artisan Food? Drew Warner, Co-Founder at Just Good Chocolate states: “Artisan food is unique; it’s defined by the fact that nothing else on earth exists that is exactly the same. Artisan food is created with love, with attention to detail, not mass produced on factory lines with only quantity in mind rather than quality.” When we look at just the definition of the word artisan, we see that it means: “A worker in a skilled trade, esp. one that involves making things by hand.” For me I agree with both of these as I have been able to sample enough handmade Artisan Food that I think food taste better when it is cultivated and made by a skilled craftsman.

Vermont is a great place to look at artisan foods because I personally don’t think that the old ideas ever died off. As we have learned from other weeks readings Vermont has always been looking for ways to use everything it creates. Cabot Cheddar started out as a handmade cheese, and while most of the mixing and heating is done by technology today, it still takes the cheese-makers hands on touch to create their award winning cheese. While today Cabot cheese is a big name brand, it is sticking to its more artisan roots because that is what its customers have come to know and expect from them.

  1. Does the product describe new ways Vermonters are fulfilling regional and national markets? Locate one example to illustrate your ideas.

I think that the Artisan Food Movement is a way to fulfill regional and national markets, and I say this because of the ideals about food that it represents. As people learn more and more about where the food the currently eats comes from they start to shift to the “new” ideas like organic, sustainable, and artisan. It is my opinion that all of these ideas are all represented by the idea that we are gradually learning that we need to take care of our planet as well as ourselves. This is why we are seeing a bunch of “new” ideas that are really a resurgence of the old ways we made things. Look at the world of craft beers for example, and we can see that breweries like the Alchemist are using local grains and other local ingredients to make beers that are unique to the region they are made in. While not native to Vermont, Samuel Adams started out as a small craft beer that because of its taste, flavor, and the craft put into its creation has become a national brand. Sadly most of the craft beers in Vermont don’t make it out of the New England area, but as more and more people experience craft beers the more people want them.

  1. Consider the factors that influence and shape natural systems, agriculture, food, and cuisine. Are they continuing to guide Vermont artisan foods and if so, how have they impacted over 40 years? Locate simple examples to illustrate your opinion. Pay special attention to the following:
    • Geography and climate- Both Geography and Climate have big impacts on Vermont’s economy and food systems. As we have learned in other weeks readings, the geography of Vermont could have looked very different if it had not been for the collapse of the wool industry. In the last few years heirloom grain production has begun to make a resurgence and the open fields are starting to be cultivated for its growth.  This is allowing craft brewers to use local heirloom grains to make a unique to Vermont beer. Climate on the other had has always been a fact for every farmer that lives in Vermont. Take the maple farmer for example, who each year is waiting for the two or three perfect days when the sap runs. Two to three days a year that is all controlled by the climate and weather of Vermont. As we have seen climate shifts and erratic/ late storms in the past few years these two or three days could turn into one or two as the climate changes. These simple examples of how climate and geography go to show how changes in one or both of these can have far reaching effects into the future of Vermont’s artisan food movement.
    • Religion, wealth, and social status- Wealth has always played a part in the movement of food and natural systems. When the price of gas goes up so does the cost of moving food and products to the markets. It also cost more to run the farm equipment and thus a farmer has to charge more for their items. With artisan food this should not be too much of a factor because most artisan foods are made with-in a few mils of where they are being sold. In the last 40 years we have seen an economic recession and a collapse in the housing market, so people didn’t have the extra money to be spending on the finer things. Granted people in higher wealth or social status brackets didn’t suffer as much as the lower to middles classes did but this has been the case across history. As the economy bounced back people began to have a deeper appreciation for artisan and organic foods and were willing to pay for them. This has helped stimulate the artisan food movement to the place it is in today.
    • Trade and technology- Personally I think that the internet and the ability to connect with people all over the world have had the biggest impact on food pathways in the last 40 years. Think about how connected we are today, compared with 20 or even 10 years ago. With the advent of online shopping and the ability to reach out to people all over the world, craft beers, cheese-makers, farmers, and composters alike can set up and run a business with the ability to reach millions of potential customers online. Online shopping and the internet are changing the way that people shop. There are even applications made for our smartphones and tablets today that allow customers to put in a remote shopping list that is ready for them to pick up when they get to the store. Because of the rapid growth and improvements we have seen in both trade and technology, I would not be surprised to see them having the biggest impact on our food systems over the next few years.

 

  1. 4.      What is your opinion about the future of artisan food in Vermont? Describe, analyze, and explain your reasoning.

As with most of the ideas and food movements popping up around the country today I think that artisan food is a good idea. The only problem is that in order for it to be a successful movement it must be good food that people actually want to buy and eat. Just because something is handmade doesn’t mean that it is going to taste good. Think about it like this, a mud pie made by a five year old in the backyard is still technically artisan, but would you want to eat it?  From the artisan foods I have tasted I don’t think Vermont has anything to worry about when it comes to taste or quality. The real problem that I see for the Artisan Food Movement is that it could become a marketing gimmick for big food business. As the definition of artisan is very lost right now, it can be applied to a lot of different things, like Dominoes Pizza and Panera Bread. I don’t really know if these products are made by hand with quality in mind or if they are just using this “new” trend as a marketing lure. This is the problem I see with most of these food movements right now. Organic is popping up all over the place right now but because of label laws and regulations it is such a loose term that almost anything can be organic. Sustainability at this point has hit a wall because it doesn’t scale up to larger communities without exponentially larger cost. While we are talking about cost let’s not forget that most of these new food movements are expensive and the less well-off common man can’t afford to eat that way. I personally think that if we continue learn about and demand healthy food we will see the Artisan and other food movements carried into the future. However if these movements become gimmicks and money making tools for big business than I see these movements becoming shadows of their former selves with no more value than the current trends. What I truly think needs to happen in-order for both sides to move forward is for a compromise or co-op to be formed. This would combined the values and ethics of the small farmer with the distribution and production power of big agro-business, where the small farmer isn’t trapped by massive debt and good high quality food is available to all.

Literature Review:

             When it came time to answer the first question I turned to the readings from this week and also two other articles. The first was the actual definition of artisan from dictionary.com, and the second was an article called “What is Artisan Food, Anyway?” This article was about what different artisan food companies think artisan food means. The in class reading provided a great resource for the different ideas to consider when it comes to what we think artisan food is all about.

The second question I decided to talk more about the craft beer movement and for this I needed to look at a success story of the craft beer industry. I decided to use Samuel Adams because I honestly cannot think of a better example of how a small time craft beer turned itself into a national brand. I know that I should have shown Vermont beers for this but I could not find a craft beer from Vermont that is available across the nation. Instead I pulled a craft beer from the New England area and used it to show the trail that was blazed for other craft beers to follow.

Works Cited:

“Artisan.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2013.

“Artisan Foods Grow Mainstream While Connecting Consumers to Values.” Marketwire. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2013.

“Is Artisanal, Handmade Food Always Better?” Serious Eats – Seriouseats.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2013.

“Samuel Adams.” – America’s World Class Beer. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2013.

“What Is Artisan Food, Anyway?” – Technorati Lifestyle. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Feb. 2013.

 

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One Comment on “Is Artisan Food Just Another Marketing Scheme…?”

  1. Leaf52 February 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Based on your definition, I’d say you are an artisan chef!

    I also admit that I took great joy in reading your line: “we need to take care of our planet as well as ourselves.” Definitely something I believe in. True artisan food seems to have this as a founding tenant of its creation.

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