Monday, February 18, 2019 - 12 pm

Food & Power: How Corporations Shape What We Eat and Drink
Phil Howard

The largest packaged food and beverage makers constantly run into the limited size of our stomachs in their efforts to increase their power. There is only so much we can physically eat or drink, and only so much that firms can do to reduce their costs as well. Generating profits that outperform the average for other industries therefore requires continually steering our purchases in new directions. This presentation focuses on two key qualitative strategies these firms use to influence consumption patterns and increase their share of food and beverage markets: deskilling and spatial colonization. It explores the application of these strategies more specifically for three products—beer, soymilk and bagged salads—and the enormous energy expended to restrict our eating and drinking habits. It also examines the possibilities for challenging this power.

Phil Howard is an Associate Professor of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University, and a member of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems. He is the author of Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat? His visualizations of food system changes have been featured in numerous outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and The Ecologist.