19 March 2012

Dumbed down by cake mix

I had to go to Caloundra last week and while I was there I went into Woolworths to buy yeast. Seems simple enough, doesn't it? But I hadn't been into Woolworths for a long time and wasn't sure how their aisles were set up. I walked into the centre of the store and started looking at the signs on the aisles that indicate what is there. I knew they wouldn't have "yeast" up there so I looked for a staple that I knew would be next to it - "Flour". I went up and down and couldn't find flour.  What's going on here! Woolworths has no flour? That doesn't make sense. Then I caught sight of what looked like the baking aisle, I looked up at the sign and the first product on there was "Cake Mix". I kept reading, there was no flour listed.


Cake mix was their header product. Flour is on the shelves but they don't mention it on the shop aisle signs. Have we gone that far down the gurgler?

According to Mediatonic, Woolworths has a 77% market penetration rate in Australia. So 77% of shoppers are being told that cake mix is more important than flour. That is so depressing.

When I came home I decided to do a bit of slueth work online to see if the same craziness was going on there. Yes. It is. They start with cake mixes - pages of them. The first one listed is Donna Hay Biscuit Mix Macaroon @ $8.59 a box! Am I the only one who thinks that's crazy? The cake mixes go on for about five pages, then there are pre-made frostings, nuts, dried fruit etc and on page 18, flour - plain old flour, is mentioned. You can buy 1 kg/2.2lbs of organic plain flour for $3.64. That's enough to make at least a hundred macaroons.

Why am I going on about this? Why is it important? Well, every cake mix you buy will have preservatives in it. They need them so they can sit on the shelves for so long. Flour doesn't need preservatives because it's just flour- ground up grain, usually wheat. But check out a pack of cake mix and see all the artificial flavourings there - if you buy this mix and cook with it, you'll probably add milk and eggs but everything else is already in there - or at least there is additive that will mimic the natural ingredients you would use like butter, vanilla, bananas, orange zest, sultanas or cocoa. 

But the real reason this almost made me weep last week is that we're being dumbed down. They're selling us convenience over health. We are losing our traditional skills for the sake of convenience - the skills that every generation in your family kept going, added to and passed along. Promoting cake mix instead of the ingredients you would buy to make bread, cakes, biscuits and muffins, is telling us that cake mix is better than flour. I suppose the truth of it is that for the supermarkets, mixes are better because they cost more and therefore their profit margin is higher. It doesn't matter that they rob us of our cooking skills, or they're not as healthy as what you make at home from scratch, it doesn't matter that you'll be ingesting all sorts of additives that you probably can't pronounce, the holy grail here is the profit margin. Let's all bow down to the mighty dollar.  Pffffffft

Don't let them do that to you. Don't let them do it to us! We have the power here. Our dollars keep these places open and profitable. Look at your shop signs and if yours says cake mix and it doesn't mention flour, complain. Please complain. This is important. Every supermarket would have an email address. Send an email to the manager telling him/her of your concerns, and tell him/her you expect a reply. We want flour back where it belongs. We want cake mix back there too - as a standby for those busy times, not the leader in the baking aisle.

I see a few things that make me wonder why, but this just made me angry. There are a lot of us working hard to reskill our communities and teach our families. Heading a baking sign with cake mix and leaving flour off it completely might not seem like a big deal but if we don't complain about it, we're saying it's oay. Well, it's not okay. Flour is the base ingredient for almost everything you bake. Common sense tells me that flour should lead the baking ingredients in any shop and if a supermarket doesn't agree with that then they're putting their profit margin ahead of my well being and health. And if that is the case and they won't change their sign, I won't shop there anymore.

Please check out your supermarket and tell me what's happening there. Hopefully this is a minor glitch and the rest of the world is still leading people to the flour.
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