Part of being engaged to an aspiring young dietetic professional (Claire) is that I’m exposed to both voluntary and involuntary experiences, information and literature on a host of subjects related to nutrition, health and well being. As a registered nurse (RN) some of what I learn is relevant to my individual practice and other information gets stored under a simple “interesting fact” category in my head.
Recently Claire has been reading a book by Marion Nestle titled What to Eat that initially started off with my perception as another get healthy book written by a nutrition professional to inspire change in the reader’s eating habits and awareness. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have given this book a second thought or picked it up myself to glance a portion on my own time but when Claire mentioned that it discussed “how big food companies try to influence our choices” I became immediately interested in what the author had to contribute.
Marion does an excellent job, in my opinion, of identifying a number of internal opportunities and threats of the food industry and certain food related businesses in how old and new external factors are currently shaping the food industry. Not only does she take the time to discuss how companies are interacting with their consumers, but takes note of changing habits in purchasing, supply and demand of consumers.
For any investor holding shares in publicly traded companies with activities in the grocery, food service, food manufacturing or food marketing industries the perceptions of the Nestle are very important and should not be overlooked. This book not only had an impact in my own awareness of what I eat but also the barriers that many companies I currently own shares in currently face and the demographic shifts they are encountering in a globalized world.
Nestle doesn’t make any stunning conclusions in her work, but the time she takes in a number of chapters to discuss how corporate America and global food companies interact and manipulate consumer behaviour towards purchasing and consumption of food made me re-evaluate some of the holdings I have in my portfolios and reassess how much exposure I want to have to certain individual products, brands and product lines.
This isn’t a book I would rush out to read to make any quick money in the market, but if you hold any companies that operate within the food industry directly or indirectly then skimming through the book might be worthwhile to your understanding of how the industry operates and how that can best suit you as an investor.
On a personal level I found the book very informative. Nothing in the book changed any of my individual eating or purchasing habits, but I did re-examine my portfolios to assess the risk I might be exposed to for certain shifts in consumption and invest in others I hadn’t identified from a view of consolidation within an industry or sector.
You should watch the movie Food Inc. that will really change your opinions about the food industry and the companies that control it.