The Politics in My Pantry, Part 2: Morale Edition

Jan. 4, 2021
My purchasing habits may be of little consequence to most people reading this post, but I do represent a growing market that grocers and food and beverage manufacturers are doing to have to contend with sooner than later. I'm a card-carrying member of the transparency generation.

Last summer, I penned a blog post called The Politics in my Pantry. In the post, I talked about how the companies we cover here on Food Processing have impacted my purchasing decisions over the years. Having spent more than 10 years learning the CPG industry, I find myself now putting my purchasing power into companies and brands that advocate for inclusivity and diversity. That particular blog post was well-received and I was honestly surprised I didn't get any hate-mail from it. 

Over this past holiday weekend, I was telling a friend of mine about my political pantry (or in this case, my refrigerator). I talked about my Ben & Jerry's habit (because of the creamery's social justice programs); my Chobani-filled fridge (because they treat their employees well); and how I'm currently trying to sway my last vice to include Pepsi's diet cola products because of what PepsiCo and MTN DEW are doing to help the Black community. My friend listened over the phone as I passionately pleaded my case for investing my dollars into the companies whose activities I support. I probably sounded like a bit of an oddball extolling the virtues of dairy and diet soda the way I did, but to know me is to love me. 

Whose Morale?

Part of my job with Food Processing is to handle the social media accounts for the brand. If you've ever found us on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Facebook, then it's highly likely I was behind the post. 

I recently posted this item on our social media channels about the managers at Tyson Foods who found it to be a 'morale booster' to have a COVID pool. One of our Twitter followers commented on our tweet about what kind of people find placing bets on someone's illness or misfortune a 'morale booster.' And, for once, I agreed with a Twitter commenter. The commenter went on to raise the point about if these were managers, what does that say about how much they care about the safety of the food if they find people's health and safety funny. Yet again, I agreed with the Twitter commenter. (This rarely happens that I agree with people's Tweets back to our posts, so you'll understand why it was particularly important). 

From the Food Processing brand's point of view, I'm merely the messenger. I didn't make the news, I just helped report on it. From a consumer point of view, though, it gave me pause. Did I want to give my hard-earned purchasing dollars to this kind of behavior? According to the news brief, which was first reported on by the AP, one of the fired managers mentioned the betting pool was to see if the company could have fewer infections than the town at large. Call me cynical, but I suspect there was more to it than that. 

There's more to the Tyson story than we'll ever know, but for now, it's making me rethink my chicken consumption and where I want to spend my fowl funds. 

By the Numbers

This week, when reporting to my team what our 2020 website metrics turned out to be, I was a bit stunned at what 2020 brought us. We had a record number of news posts and our website traffic had seen a nice enough uptick that I was able to include a thumbs up in my reporting. 

But the asterisk to all of the increased traffic was that it was brought upon because of a global pandemic. People died, businesses closed, and suffering hit a serious peak in 2020. Never once did our team bet we could beat a certain traffic goal. Personally, I was exhausted by years' end. Heck, my gift to myself during last week's Christmas-New Year's quasi-holiday was to turn off my instant message capability and even that felt like a god-send.  I want to believe my managers and executives weren't sitting in their home-offices wondering if or when Erin would drop from exhaustion. 

Maybe I'm a softy or maybe I'm more humanitarian than humored, but one thing's for sure: I've never bet money on people's misfortune. I would imagine a lot of people reading this haven't either. 

Targeted Consumer

My purchasing habits may be of little consequence to most people reading this post, but I do represent a growing market that grocers and food and beverage manufacturers are going to have to contend with sooner than later. I'm a card-carrying member of the transparency generation.

We are the people who want to know what companies are doing to make the world a better place. It may seem like a Pollyanna point of view to take, but our food means more to us than just the calories we consume. We're fueled by what companies are doing to help combat racism, how they're helping the world around them, and perhaps most importantly, how they're treating their own employees. 

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