Did you know that you hold Consumer Power, the power to change how foods are being produced and what foods are available in the stores?

Think about it… whenever you go to the grocery store and make a purchase you are sending a message to the company selling that product, all of the businesses that helped produce it (manufacturers and suppliers) and the store, that you like this product. You are casting your vote, “Yes, I want more”.

Consumer demand is a powerful force, it is our ability to collectively influence (locally, nationally and internationally) what is sold. Everything you buy at the store in a given year, from fresh produce to a new car, is tracked and added to a list that determines consumer demand. Businesses use this information in order to find ways to increase sales. Each purchase you make contributes to the profitability of the company you are dealing with and all of their trading partners. Companies want to make money, but they can only do that if we are willing to purchase their products.

What we do with our consumer power is up to us. Just imagine… what would happen if each of us refused to buy junk food. The junk food industry would lose profits and quickly seek ways to sway consumers (us) back into their good graces. They would use their marketing gurus and research analysts to find out what we (consumers) want in order to drive us back into their good graces so they can begin earning a profit again.

Many businesses are capitalizing on the consumers growing awareness of healthy eating. If you just look down the isles of a grocery story you see products proclaiming “all natural”, “heart friendly”, etc. Businesses work hard at enticing us by marketing to what they think we want. But be wary, marketing is a play on words and the use of words can be misleading. (Read Understanding the ingredients list on food labels.) That’s why it is so important that we use our purchasing power very carefully, demanding only the best, most healthy, natural foods.

If companies want to remain in business and compete for a share of the market, they must pay attention to consumer demand or lose business. We, as consumers, have the power to encourage companies to use healthy, natural and organic ingredients, switch to more sustainable production practices, and sell more environmentally friendly products just by choosing to buy those kinds of products and refusing to purchase their alternatives.

Our growing demand for healthier foods is already changing the food industry. According to Farmland LP, “Organic food sales have been growing at 20% per year since 1990” (website 1/22/15). All we have to do is visit the grocery store or wholesale corporations like Costco to see how inventory has expanded to include more healthy and organic products.

But it’s not just the increased availability of organic foods that is shifting; current consumer demand is also affecting the fast food industry. According to the Nasdaq’s September 10, 2014 article, McDonald’s August sales report revealed that sales fell 3.7%. They also reported that the impact of the documentary Super Size Me  is just now being felt among fast food chains as the film is being shown to high school students across America in health class. There is even a lesson plan for teachers.

So the next time you’re at the store, remember – YOU hold the power for change! Make your vote count! Become a conscientious shopper.