There is a divide between modern American grocery stores; each chain caters to a different class of citizen depending on its location and economic structure. The people shopping at these places may or may not be fully aware of it, but they are caught in the middle of a marketing campaign that is aimed directly at them. Primarily, the working class and the middle class are showing the greatest disparity in terms of products available to them in their proximity. When the grocery stores are located in a lower income area, shoppers are finding products very different from their higher income neighbors.
Walmart and the Co-op are two grocery chain stores that really make this difference clear. While the Walmart has focused on bulk items, quick frozen meals and ‘diet’ sections, the Co-op has stocked its shelves with organic products, free range meats and eggs, and a wide selection of fresh and diverse produce. Miller says that “culture shapes what one eats, and influences ideas about eating” (Miller 16). With this in mind, it’s as if the separate economic classes of America are really two subcultures within the one nation.
The two group are dealing with different issues day to day, and therefore have a different outlook on food and grocery shopping. The grocery stores recognize this fact and create separate marketing campaigns.The working class person will tend to shop at Walmart, a giant superstore located in the city center for easy access. These people are financially strained, and can be representative of the many minority ethnic groups living in America. Age might be lower on average, occupation may be more of a part time or labor intensive status than that of people shopping regularly at the Co-op, and the available products are quite different. Walmart does not offer the same wide selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, while Co-op does not package its products in bulk bags. Walmart has large sections for canned goods, a huge candy section and marked ‘low fat’ or ‘healthy’ ranges of packaged foods, that although marked as healthy are actually less so than those regularly marked in the Co-op.
Generally speaking, Co-op shoppers are more concerned with their health and the health of their food than they are with bulk buys, while Walmart shoppers want what appears to be a bargain.It’s a quite ingenious marketing scheme, really. The middle class is willing to pay more for quality, and the working class is looking for cheap, bulky meals. It’s all a matter of the subculture and finances, and what you hold to be the most important ideals in food.
It’s just as Richard Lee discovered with his Christmas feast in the Kalahari – the worth of food is determined by societal and cultural ideals, not the fat on the bull (Spradley 27).