business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

There are things people “know” that are debatable, sometimes just plain wrong and, in the worst cases dangerous.

Columnist George Will wrote last week about some of the bad “facts” Americans believe. Forget about the controversial and just consider this: nearly 20 percent of Americans believe the sun revolves around the earth even though the opposite has been accepted scientific doctrine for hundreds of years.

But what does that have to do with you and your job? The answer is plenty, because the retail food industry interacts with the population so regularly and in such an important way.

Consider the recent cover story from Consumer Reports on the general safety of chicken. No doubt, many in this industry would take issue with some of the articles recommendations on issues from organics to the use of antibiotics.

However, there should be no disagreement when it comes to food safety and there the article finds clear reasons for concern. In a survey of 1,000 respondents, Consumer Reports found a mixed bagged of safety practices. For instance, nearly all of those surveyed say they wash their hands regularly when handling poultry, while strong majorities say they have specific cutting boards for raw meat and they make sure to use separate plastic bags for poultry purchases in supermarkets.

Yet, more than 70 percent say they wash chicken before cooking, a food safety no-no because of splattering. And although more than 80 percent say they cook chicken to the recommended temperature, only 30 percent say they have a thermometer to actually check if they are really doing just that.

Certainly no one wants to cook in an unsafe manner. Rather the problem is that like the lack of celestial skills, many shoppers really don’t have the proper information despite years of non-stop reminders from media, the industry and virtually every package of chicken they buy.

The point of this is that we can never make assumptions about what people do and don’t know - first, because assumptions are rarely correct and second, because we have to remember that we are seeing new people all the time.

Last week MNB ran a short article that might have contained the most significant information for the entire economy. The article reminded us that this year the last of the Post-World War 2 Baby Boomers turn 50. The generation—my generation—that once warned us not to trust anyone over 30, will now be swearing that 70 is the new 50 and 50 the new 30, therefore keeping us believing we are forever young.

But we aren’t. There are powerful issues the entire economy will face as the 77 million strong Boomer generation ages, from the lack of retirement resources, to demands on the health system to understanding how the job market and work force will change. Those demographic issues are among the reasons Amazon is working so feverishly to get products to us simply, why so many companies are experimenting with smaller stores and even why Aldi is trying to open as many units as possible.

For so many reasons we seem to be constantly swimming in uncharted waters.

At the same time, we have the equally massive Millennial or Gen Y cohort moving into adulthood and defining how they live, work, shop, cook and eat.

And that’s why those misperceptions about chicken matter. We have to constantly remind ourselves that today’s consumers don’t remember the important messages of even just a few years ago, so our discussion of the basics never gets old. We have to engage them in how to cook, shop and eat to keep them safe and enthusiastic.

We have to remind them about the power of eating meals at home with families, about nutrition, economics and all that other good stuff.

And we have to remind them that in a world of Facebook, Twitter and the like, the sun doesn’t revolve around the Earth and certainly not them.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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