Pistachio shopping offers optimism

David MoonBlog

While grocery shopping this past week, I noticed that my favorite snack food company, Wonderful Pistachios, had added Jalapeno Lime to its lineup. Standing in the aisle at Kroger, I could select from 9 different varieties of nut snacks, all from one company.

I imagined what my father might think, knowing that I was about to happily pay $11 for a handful of nuts that had already been taken out of the shell. I’m guessing that my father never ate a pistachio in his life. I am certain he never had the opportunity to stroll comfortably through an air-conditioned grocery store and select from among 40,000 different items. My children think I am exaggerating when I tell them about our twice weekly home milk deliveries when I was a kid. But just a generation before me, the concept of a fully stocked grocery store as we know it today was practically non-existent. People went to a butcher for meat and a bakery for bread. If you lived in a city and were fortunate, the butcher, baker and farmer would offer their products from a central location – such as the Market House (now Market Square) in Knoxville.

The evolution of grocery shopping highlights the remarkable improvements in our lives over time.

In the 18th century, people spent a significant portion of each day acquiring and preparing food. In 1800, a staggering 90% of Americans lived on a working farm, compared to only 2% today.

Another change is where we eat. Sixty years ago, almost 80% of U.S. food expenditures were for food to be prepared at home. In 2022, food-away-from-home spending accounted for 56% of the $2.39 trillion in total U.S. food expenditures.

We never had steak in our house as kids, other than when we had bun-less hamburgers and called it steak. My dad would be convinced that I am soft and going to real-man hell if he knew I ordered filet mignon from Uber Eats.

Reflecting on these shifts, I had a couple of pistachio epiphanies. Maybe kids today are soft and spoiled, but maybe that’s what everyone thinks about the generations that follow them.

I also realized how the evolution of the food industry parallels general improvements in essentially all aspects of life. The lifestyle of today’s American middle class is luxurious compared to that of the world’s wealthiest in the mid-19th century.

It’s a common inclination for every generation to assume they have reached the zenith of economic and social achievement. So far, everyone who made that assumption has been wrong. I’m willing to bet that anyone doing so today will also be proven wrong by the achievements of our children.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management. A version of this piece originally appeared in the USA TODAY NETWORK.