WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — Mike Zollner was headed down the road toward high cholesterol and blood pressure. Then he lost 50 pounds. His answer? Twice-a-week trips to farmers markets.
“I talk to farmers in the markets about what’s in season and make delicious healthy food,” said Zollner, who is 36 and lives in Port Chester. “I didn’t want to go on any medication so I decided to do this on my own.”
He’s not the only one. In the David and Goliath battle of small and sustainable versus big and corporate, today’s food shoppers are spending their money on healthy and fresh, not packaged and processed. The Lower Hudson Valley has seen an increase in farmers markets — 30 in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam this year, up from 10 in 2001, the first year The Journal News started keeping track. Global food companies like Kraft Foods, which has offices in Tarrytown, and Mondelez International, a snack company formerly part of Kraft, are feeling the pinch. This week, General Mills made the decision to remove artificial flavors and colors from the last 40% of its packaged cereals in response to customer demands.
A June quarterly earnings report from S&P Capital IQ (with data analysis by USA TODAY) showed a drop in revenue numbers for packaged food and beverage companies in the past year. Companies included in the Russell 3000 index were analyzed showing lower profits than in 2013, in the U.S. and Canadian marketplace. Mondelez was at the top of the list with a 10.2% loss.
“I think there’s so much more coverage of what’s in our food and GMO scandals people are unsure of the bigger packaged food companies,” said Suzanne Barish of Rockland Farm Alliance, a group dedicated to preserving Rockland County farmland. “I think five years ago people weren’t aware of organic and sustainable, but now there’s a cultural shift.”