Resurgence of the Artisan

In any highly industrialized society, there is an ever present nostalgia for well crafted products. Though the possibilities of readily available food are endless, there is no substitution for the human touch. The notion that a worker skilled in his trade created something by hand for you stirs up a sense of quality and pride. This demand allows products seemingly more suited for farmers markets and street festivals to thrive on the shelves of mainstream grocery stores. So much that brands perceived to abide by that standard of production begin to carry increased value. But if a simple phrase can declare a loaf of bread or a block of cheese artisanal, how much authenticity does it really require? While “limited editions” and “small batches” imply exclusivity and finite supply, they are in truth results of trials and errors, with the best recipe being deemed fit to serve a larger consumer market. Though a limited edition is meant to be viewed as something that one ought to experience before it is gone forever, perhaps it is the case that it really shouldn’t be seen ever again.

“We hand crafted this limited edition, small batch (fill in the blank) made custom just for you… and anyone else who wants one.”

Despite these considerations, 48% of adults are swayed by the addition of phrases like “handcrafted”. But there is a clear disparity between age groups. According to a Harris Poll Study, adults are less likely to buy into the artisanal hype the older they are. Baby boomers (ages 50 to 68) and matures (ages 69 and over) don’t view small batches or handmade items any more favorably because they experienced a time in which that was entirely the norm. Generation X (38-49) witnessed the rise and evolution of fast food and prepackaged meals. For millennials, there is a high value placed on “real food” because it is something that must be actively sought out, lest we unknowingly consume D Grade meat filling or a beverage with formaldehyde as a hidden ingredient. And despite full awareness that these possibilities are always present, seeing words that convey wholeness and simplicity puts one’s mind at ease. A consumer always wants to feel satisfied with their purchases.

We live in a time in which it is no longer realistic to expect folks to source everything they consume solely from their surrounding environments. Having access to a wide variety of unique and delicious foods is one of the greatest privileges that we have in life! And while true artisanal craft is rare, and phrases are all too often misused, we can take comfort in our sustenance being governed by quality assurance and food safety standards. Further still, we can support the cheesemakers and bread bakers and beer brewers even after their humble beginnings in kitchens or garages lead to more professional distribution methods. Surely, artisans still exist all around us, making their inspired salsas and sodas and small batch whatevers for the world to fall in love with. What sets them apart as true craftspeople isn’t the gratuitous use of buzzwords in their product’s descriptions; Everything there is to know can be found by simply reading the ingredients.