“The Secret Life of Groceries”is a book you need to read if you plan on selling food to the retail sector or if you are thinking of opening a food store. If your business is food, either making or selling it, you need to spend some time with this book.
This is a dark read. The author has tried to catch the tone of Upton Sinclair’s book, “The Jungle”and he has succeeded. Unfortunately, this book is not equal to Sinclair’s in public impact.
There are chapters that convey the truth about what it takes have success in selling food via Grocery Stores:
Salad Days at Trader Joe’s describes how supermarkets got to be the way they are now and provides a good background on the industry as it is today.
Self-Realization Through Snacks is a heart-breaking example of what it takes to develop a new product and to actually get it on the Supermarket shelf. While it eventually has a happy ending, the brutality of what you have to go through and the toll it takes will shock you ( unless, of course, you have already been there). This chapter also has the most realistic description of the Fancy Food Show I have seen in print. Having attended way too many Food Shows, I could not help but nod my head in agreement.
If you have ever envied or wanted to be the driver of a “Big Rig”, the chapter called “Distribution of Responsibility” will give you pause. The author actually spent serious time with an independant truck driver and I will never think of these trucks the same way ever again. It is however an excellent description of the steps needed in getting produce from the farm to the supermarket.
This book is worth your time. However it does not completely reflect my own overall experience when I was manufacturing food in the US. I was fortunate to understand that our chances of success would be much higher if I skipped the grocery stores. By focusing on hotels, I stumbled into market niche where having the right Distribution was everything. In our case, it was Certified Angus Beef Distributors who made us a National Brand and a take-over candidate. Because my personal experience was so positive, I believe it would be great to also see a more positive perspective on what is our most important industry.