retail news in context, analysis with attitude

In Canada, the Financial Post writes that American restaurateur/chef David Chang “wants the ethnic food aisle to die.”

Chang argues that the notion of an ethnic food aisle is ”out of date and doomed … because it puts ‘all the places in the world that are not White America’ in one aisle.”

The Post writes that Chang “urged supermarkets to mix it all up instead, putting sauces with sauces and spices with spices, regardless of where they came from. That format would fit better in the ‘hodgepodge’ of modern cuisine, he said, where diners and home cooks know enough about food not to think of it in terms of ethnic or mainstream.”

“I have nothing but anger” about the notion of an ethnic food aisle, Chang says, adding, “I’m not saying it’s straight racist, that’s not what I’m trying to say. But it is pretty close to it — because it’s values of how we ate years ago.”

The Post writes that “Canada’s largest supermarket chain, Loblaw Companies Ltd., appears ready to side with Chang, and will phase out the ethnic aisle as it renovates its stores, mixing international products into other sections.”

But, the story says, “other major chains are significantly expanding their global aisles, in some cases creating a standalone store in neighbourhoods with diverse populations.”
KC's View:
It is, I think, a provocative notion, not to mention a timely one. We all have different ethnic makeups, and yet Chang’s position is well-taken - “ethnic food” is a description generally - though not always - reserved for foods that emanate from cultures that are non-white.

I’m honestly not sure how I feel about this. It is nice to know where to find stuff that is seen as exotic. But we are in different territory now, and companies have to be sensitive about issues that never seemed to be controversial.