Eataly Has “The Caper Problem”


Grist has a really interesting article about Eataly, noting that it embodies “The Caper Problem,” which occurs after all the ingredients on one’s shopping list have been placed in the shopping cart and the customer realizes he has forgotten the capers (or horseradish or mini gherkins). He then must retrace his steps through the store, this time almost in slow motion. As Grist explains, “Eataly is truly a marvel of social-commercial engineering, but [also] … a hugely missed opportunity.”

What’s wrong with the American Eataly? Rather than serving as an educational tool connecting producers and consumers (the caper seekers), it is a place that fetishizes the Italian experience and creates a sense of inauthenticity. As the author writes:

It’s not that the local is overlooked — Eataly carries produce grown on a rooftop garden in Queens, fish from local waters, and fresh-baked bread — but local here tends to feel like the “local” section that every chain supermarket feels obligated to install these days — a sort of begrudging nod to a trend. It’s not the driving force behind the store, as it is in Italy.

This is the most interesting point of the article. There’s no question that the local food movement is a wonderful thing, and the more stores that carry local, sustainable, and seasonal foods, the better. But what began as a movement is slowly becoming a marketing tool, with greenwashing pervasive in our supermarkets. It’s great that more consumers are able to vote with their forks and food dollars, but let’s not forget the bigger reasons why.

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