Do we really need 57 varieties?

Is there more to food than we see in our supermarket trolleys?

Do we really need 57 varieties?

You may be familiar with the term Heinz 57, it was used as an advertising campaign in the 1890’s highlighting the fact that Heinz carried a great range of products – the full slogan is 57 varieties – and that number still appears on its many and varied food products today, even though at the time the slogan was formulated Heinz had over 57 different products on the market.

Recently I was doing my supermarket shopping online, a convenience that I find very supportive when I need to stock up the pantry and freezer but would rather not have a trip out to the store. After all, why not have your groceries delivered to your door after someone else has curated your products from the online list you provided? And what struck me whilst I was scrolling through the multitude of food and products available is how many varieties of the exact same thing there are.

Out of curiosity I searched for bread (even though I don’t eat it) and up popped 90 different loaves of white sliced bread. The same product, but 90 varieties or versions from several different producers. I did the same for milk – 221 products! Yes, there was a range of 1 litre to 4 litre cartons available, full fat through to skimmed, but really 221 different options for cow’s milk? Why is that?

I started to experiment and explore further, my shopping list abandoned out of sheer curiosity:

  • Tinned tomatoes 65
  • Baked beans 61
  • Corn chips 41
  • Pasta 457
  • Rice 265
  • Tuna 121
  • Cheese 472
  • Water 139

This vast array of the same product got me wondering; if food is something we need to fuel and sustain our body, to provide energy, nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, then why do we need to have so many varieties of the exact same thing made by several different brands?

Take tinned tomatoes for example – you only need whole, halved, diced, or crushed to meet your culinary needs, so why are the supermarket shelves heaving under the weight of so many different versions of tinned tomato brands. Is this to give the consumer the illusion of choice, to allow brands to offer a different price point or a range of quality of product?

I decided to see if this wide selection applied to the fruit and vegetable department:

  • Broccoli 3
  • Green apples 2
  • Bananas 4
  • Oranges 1

The answer was a clear no.

My choices were exceedingly limited and would have me believe when it comes to what nature produces there simply isn’t much variation on offer. Yet when I looked up green apples in nature there would be around 27 different types of green apple. So why does my supermarket only have 2, which on closer inspection proved to be the same granny smith apple with the only difference being their size? The same with broccoli – whole, florets or grated – aka broccoli rice. Now in my ignorance I thought there was only a few types of broccolis, but it turns out that like green apples, there are actually 27.

And oranges, did you know there are over 400 (yes 400) different varieties and yet my supermarket only supplies the navel ones!

So, if the premise and argument behind carrying so many options in the same range of tinned and packet goods is to provide the consumer with choice, then only having one type of apple, orange, or broccoli available simply doesn’t make sense or hold water (all 139 different types of it for sale).

What is going on with our food supply – why have food manufacturers gone to so much length to provide us with such apparent choice, like Heinz and its famous 57 varieties? And yet when it comes to fresh produce we are cheated of options because the larger supermarkets are dictating what variety they will stock and sell to us.

If we eat to live, then why do we need so many different manufactured, processed, and to some extent man-made foods? Why do we need so many versions of the same thing? Is it that we are brand loyal, is it that we like to think we have choice, is that we consider this type of tinned tomato better than other, does one have more flavour or is it all about price?

What is the demand that is being supplied?

If we ate to nourish and fuel the body then our food supply would be much simpler, more wholesome, less processed and would not consist of so many things that can be ingested out of packets and tins that we call food because we can put it in our mouth and consume it.

If we ate to truly care for our bodies, we would demand foods that were healthy, didn’t make us bloat, were low in sugar and salt, were absent of chemicals and additives, and as close to how nature provided them for us as possible. We would not be suffering from a global pandemic of obesity, metabolic syndrome disorders like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, or be deficient in minerals, vitamins and the key nutrients needed to keep our body functional and well.

We have so much food supply and the convenience of buying food almost 24/7 yet we have individuals that are both overweight and malnourished at the same time. This says to me something is way out of kilter when it comes to how we choosing to feed ourselves.

We can sit back and blame the food manufacturers, big food, marketing companies, the supermarkets, fast food chains, take away food and the food industry as a whole, but at the end of the day we are the ones that decide what we will purchase and put in our mouths. It is our buying power and our demand for products that has them on the shelves and ultimately in our stomachs. If something doesn’t sell it wouldn’t be long until it disappeared from our supermarket aisles as it would not be profitable and thus sustainable for the manufacturer to keep providing it.

But what if food and the way we eat is about more than fuelling the physical body and providing it with what it needs to be functional and healthy? What if food is supposed to support us to be more in touch with our body, how it feels and its inner quality than it is about calories and macro-nutrients?

If this were the case our diets would be based on allowing us to be sensitive and connected to what we feel around and within us, to be light, aware, and hence evolving our beingness and not simply to titillate the taste buds or meet the criteria of what we believe a healthy, balanced meal should look like.

Yet for many, and certainly not for myself up until recent years, we do not eat this way and do not even know it is a possibility having been fed (pardon the pun) all the food knowledge and information that we have from birth. Facts like you need carbohydrates for energy, that you must have 3 meals a day, breakfast is the most important meal, vegetables are healthy, you need milk for calcium and on and on I could go. But this food education we have received omits one important and glaringly obvious fact – the fact of energy.

We live in a world of energy… everything that exists (and that includes you and I) is made of energy. So what energy are we demanding when it comes to our food choices and food supply?

What energy is behind the need to have so many different varieties of the same product? Is it that we want foods that will dull our senses, take the edge off our awareness, leave us disconnected, racy, over-stimulated or heavy? Is it that we want foods that are going to slow our evolution and keep us from paying attention to our body, which if given the opportunity is naturally responsive and wants to evolve?

Is this why we have so many varieties, because we are buying energy first and the food second?

Does the energy in the tinned tomatoes, for example, from one manufacture differ to the energy to that of another and is it actually that which we are choosing, saying yes to and demanding when we do our shopping? Do we subconsciously know of these energetic differences, and is it that choice of energy that provides the payoff we are seeking that we buy? Like eating a certain brand because we know that it makes us more racy than the same product of a different brand, which may make us more heavy. Now that’s some food for thought!

In a world where all is energy, and all is because of energy first and foremost, then all foods are comprised of a certain quality of energy, and just like the food, each brand also has a particular energetic quality. Thus, if we choose to live in a way that does not support us to live from our natural, inner way, a way that would bring connection, awareness and evolution, that would have us know who we truly are – that we are more than only flesh and bone – then we will have a supply of foods that give us exactly what it is we want to energetically consume.

What if we were to shift direction and point ourselves back to an evolutionary diet, and begin to consume foods that allowed us to be more in tune with our inner world, sensitivity, and awareness?

The variety of foods on offer would vastly diminish as we would eat very differently to how we do now, knowing that the energy of what we eat and how the food was produced shapes our ability to be aware, to connect, to be settled and still, and hence evolve.

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  • By Dr Rachel Hall, Dentist

    Dentist, business owner, writer, author and presenter. Family woman, guitarist, photographer, passionate about health, wellbeing and community. Lover of Vietnamese food, fast cars, social media, café culture and people.

  • Photography: Steve Matson, Electrical Engineer, Chef, Photographer, Forklift operator and student of life.

    I am someone that looks at something that is complicated and sees the simplicity behind it. Life needs to be fun and lived. Making mistakes is an important part of this process.