Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Democritization of Healthy Foods

I've been thinking about changes in the marketplace recently. My (sub-)generation has a unique perspective on the world. Those of you who were born +/- a year or two from me grew up in a pretty tech-free environment (you remember card catalogs and getting paper copies of things at the library), but you were young enough when tech exploded that you were able to learn it well and integrate it into your life seamlessly.  I remember the single semester in college that the entire campus shifted from dial-up modems to talk to the VAX to a fully networked Windows NT campus (that would look familiar to the kids these days).

In the world of computers and media this transition is "done". If you're older than me, you are comfortable having three choices for TV (NBC, CBS, and ABC). You got your news from one of those three places, and you watched sitcoms from one of those three places. The lack of choice meant that there was only money in the hits. You couldn't afford to offend anyone and you had to appeal to the everyone's taste. It also meant that it drove tastes and the country was much more homogenized because of it.  If you're younger than me, you watch what you want when you want on Netflix. Since there are virtually endless channels, there's actually more money in the tails - that is, if you add up all of the non-hits that are watched, there are more total people watching non-hits than hits.

This is old news popularized in the book, The Long Tail and well-monetized by Amazon. Remember when Amazon was just a book seller? Rather than having to cater to hit books at physical stores, Amazon could have a deep catalog of non-hits, and that obviously worked out for them.  Hidden in the Amazon (and Netflix) model is that they have "big data", which means that not only do they have aggregated data on how many people buy/watch something, they also know who bought/watched what, when, how many times, and what else they liked. Netflix actively produces content to contain attributes that their big data tells them will be popular - that is, your TV (binge) watching habit determines what will get produced, rather than the old producer-centric model where you watch what you were given.

So what does all of this have to do with food? You're going to see a similar change in food production/consumption that I saw in media production/consumption. And I think this is a great change that's going to have a dramatic (positive) effect on our health. Right now the majority of people (those not in our weird Boulder bubble) go to either a Safeway or Kroger store (they own just about everything) and get the same pre-packaged food from one of the major suppliers (Tyson, Nestle, Kraft, General Mills, ConAgra, ...). There's only money in the hits. Everyone eats the same thing because everyone is offered the same thing. It's just like media consumption of my childhood. Fundamentally, that's why its hard for folks like me to make a change in your diet - your choices are limited to what you can buy. Culturally, you don't want to be the weird one with a weird diet - if it's at the supermarket, it's normal.

So now we have Amazon buying Whole Foods. Amazon, the king of big data analytics and long tail marketing. Whole Foods, the king of food quality, food choice, and most importantly, transparency of the whole food chain (where most places what to hide what you're eating, you can get SKU-level detail from Whole Foods on anything they have in stock). Whole Foods is profitable selling to the long tail, whether you're a hard-core meat-eating paleo caveman or a raw vegan, you can easily find what you need there.

Netflix flipped the media to be demand-driven rather than producer-driven. I see the same thing happening in food. There are enough of us in the long tail, and Amazon has the purchasing power that we can change the food system to be demand-driven. If we want grass-fed steak and non-GMO veggies, we can get it.

Amazon didn't pay me for this article (though, if they wanted to, they have enough money to...Jeff are you reading?), I just live in the world of data and see how data can change production. I lived through (and helped to develop) the first data-driven revolution, and now I see it happening again. Keep buying your non-CAFO, non-GMO, all organic stuff - the algorithms will see it and we can change the production side.


row 500 / run 400
crawling lunge
10 KB swings or snatches
double KB overhead lunge
10 TGUs or windmills
10 goblet squats
5 pull-ups or push-ups or dips


squat 8-5-3x5


2 pull-ups + 2 dips between strength sets

Group Workout

50 hand to hand kettlebell swing at a challenging weight


5 rounds:
10 Burpees 
20 weighted lunges
0:45 rest


2 minute plank hold, break into 0:30 sets of maximum tension and effort 


Sign up for classes

Strength Metrics

Get Xero Shoes