Clean food trend

The branding of clean food

It doesn’t seem like that long ago that “clean” meant no grime on your counters or no dirt under your nails; or perhaps no traces of drugs in your blood test … Now the word we most commonly hear associated with “clean” is “food.” Everyone — and not just longtime wholesome-food evangelists such as Mark Bittman and Michael Pollan — is talking about eating clean.

Forget about the clean-your-plate club, though. Now the holy grail is making what’s on the plate clean. Google “clean eating” and you’ll get millions of links, starting with a website of that very name.

When it doesn’t mean scrubbing your vegetables, clean is actually a rather vague term that covers most of what’s trendy today: fresh food, not processed or gunked up with the sugars and salts that bedevil what Bittman calls the Standard American Diet (SAD), organic, whole, good for you, local, hormone-free, grass-fed and recognisable by your grandmother.

Some nutritionists would add gluten-free and dairy-free to that list of virtues, while PETA would add vegan and the CrossFit guys would say paleo. It probably always involves quinoa and kale.

Of course, choosing clean food is good for our health. But it also makes us feel virtuous, which is why brands have latched onto the term. It’s the food equivalent of non-conflict diamonds or fair-trade coffee. No harm was done in its production — or in its consumption. No wonder there are clean options for every course, every time of day and every price range, from Chipotle’s cheap “food with integrity” on up to Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which was farm-to-table before that became cool.

Healthy fast casual is one of the most rapidly growing restaurant categories, with office workers from L.A. to New York eager to embrace the trend.

Hu Kitchen in New York City promises diners they’ll “get back to human.” Sweetgreen, mostly in the mid-Atlantic, uses chalkboard menus to tell customers who farmed the broccoli, and it puts farmers’ bios and charity partners on its website. Fresh & Co — the latest and great purveyor of coffees, veggies and all around fresh stuff — says on its site that it “gives you responsibly farmed and prepped food that’s as authentic and delightful as the people who serve it.”

Now that everyone’s eating unprocessed, organic and healthy food, it’s showing up in places far from the neighborhood greenmarket. Wal-Mart didn’t just boost its selection of organic and local food but also launched a series of private-label books based on its own Eat-Clean Diet.

And it recently announced a partnership with 1990s healthy favourite (later overwhelmed by Whole Foods) Wild Oats Market in an effort to “drive down organic food prices,” making the cleaner fare accessible for people with lower incomes. (Naturally, detractors quickly started arguing that Wal-Mart’s local organic offerings aren’t quite as virtuous as the press release would have you believe, but that, too, speaks to the power of “clean” as a marketing ploy.)…..

Forbes: Read the full article