Real Foodie – Real Money?

Jul 3, 2014 by

Can you be a real foodie and make real money?

This thought has crossed my mind several times recently. It usually occurs to me when I’m in a restaurant or cafe and think, I could make so much nicer at home. Now I’m no Cordon Bleu cook, but I love food and I buy and cook the best I can afford and sometimes what I can’t afford!

When I lost my job, I had a lot more time to indulge my passion, but a lot less money. I began to realise that I was actually eating much better. Now I was time rich but cash poor. Before, I was coming home and just making what I could with what I had managed to buy, on a mad dash to the supermarket at lunchtime or on the way home. I always cooked but rarely bought anything more processed than a pizza on a Friday night when the kids were small.

But first I suppose you would have to define a “foodie”. Apart from hating the word, is there a definitive definition? Wikipedia has this. At no point does it mention someone concerned with the origin and the production method of the food they are passionate about. To me – this is what a foodie is or should be. I’m not hugely concerned if it’s not organic but I tend to prefer to buy it when I can. If a food is produced with minimal damage to the environment and with minimal cruelty to the animal concerned then I’m happy. 

During my research for this post and quite by coincidence an American friend posted this article on Facebook. I agree with most of it particularly that agriculture does not necessarily have to be organic. Before we started importing vast quantities of genetically modified grain to make cheap animal feed we had pretty much the best agriculture system in the world. At least for sheep and beef, pigs and chicken have always been less so.

I asked some people I know involved in food production (small passionate producers) can money be made without compromising your principles. I got some interesting replies.

A farmer I know producing top quality meat says restaurants have tried his meat, they love it, their customers love it but the price point is just too high. Restaurants, even high end ones have a budget to adhere to.

Another restaurant supplier told me that their customers will buy a top quality ingredient initially but then they squeeze the supplier, and buy trashy ingredients to supplement.

Another farmer told me you can make money if you have a “sh&t load” of land.

One restauranteur replied to my Twitter query that you can make money using good ingredients but not organic. 

The consensus from the smaller artisan producers was you can make a living (just about) but you can’t make money.

I know when I worked in a high end bakery we used the best quality ingredients and the products were all hand made but we lost money hand over fist. It is very difficult to make money using butter, top quality chocolate, olive oil (not pomace), cream, real eggs (not liquid). Well you could if you charged a realistic price but how many restaurants and cafés would pay a realistic price?

How many times have I found what I think is a great product but then I look at the ingredient list. I gave up a long time ago buying “artisan” pesto. They skimp on the olive oil to begin with and if they use it at all you can be guaranteed it is pomace. There are so few ingredients in pesto but the quality of the oil is of paramount importance. I’m not that bothered. I just make my own. In fact I do this with so many different foods now. I never buy mayonnaise. Even if you could buy it made with raw organic eggs you would probably have to sign the official secrets act or whatever the equivalent is.

Money is almost always the bottom line no matter how passionate the producer or the consumer is. The producer has to justify the expense of using a top quality ingredient and will they get a return. The consumer depending on budget and passion has a price point too. Very often it is cheaper for me to make my own using top quality ingredients. But you do need the time.

I am obviously not talking about large food companies here. The likes of Glenisk and successful artisan cheese producers, particularly the ones using raw organic milk. For some reason the latter seem to be immune from this “price point”. I love buying products like theirs. I love to glory in the fact that they are making what I would make myself at home. I can taste their passion.

In an ideal world we could all eat, buy, make real food without financial hardship. And we would need less of the meaningless adjectives – natural, handmade, hand tied, artisan, country fresh, gourmet etc. to describe it. And maybe we would have less obesity, diabetes, cardiac disease, cancer.

So can a real foodie make money?

Some can. Most make a living and many more make money where the foodie bit is a bit fuzzy. 

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  1. Happy to hear that. Thank you.

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