Nestlé (the food manufacturing giant based in Switzerland) has just announced its plan to expand into the realm of health food.
According to the NYT:
Nestlé announced the creation of Nestlé Health Science as well as a research body, the Nestlé Institute of Health Sciences, “to pioneer a new industry between food and pharma.”
It said the two bodies would develop nutritional products to help prevent and treat conditions like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease, which are increasingly placing a burden on Western health care systems….
So, is there anything surprising, any contradiction in the idea of the makers of Aero bars also producing health food? Well, to start with, Nestlé is already a maker of baby foods, a category in which nutrition is considered paramount. But more generally, the move makes sense because, after all, health foods (as opposed to “healthy foods”) are just another category of processed foods. Given how hard it’s turning out to get people to eat their veggies, it’s not that hard to imagine a future in which the world is dominated by two kinds of processed food: processed junk food, and processed health food.
Now, I’m not entirely cynical about the kinds of high-tech nutritional products Nestlé is talking about; it may well be that science is going to do great things in the area of functional foods. But if you’re interested in understanding the food industry, it seems to me that it’s essential to understand the reasons companies are attracted to food processing — with all its potential for efficiency, innovation, and customization — as opposed to simply growing and shipping stuff like carrots and broccoli.