Brands and identity

The first cookbook by an African-American woman was Mrs. Fishers’ Guide to Southern Cooking, published in San Francisco in the 1880s by Elizabeth Fisher.     It speaks to the role that African-American cooks have had in shaping what Americans eat.

The first caterers were a black firm in Philadelphia in the 1830s, which specialized in the finest cuisine of the time.

A generation of railroad and ship travelers grew up seeing African-Americans as the chefs aboard those forms of travel.

African-Americans like to eat also.  One of our major health issues is obesity, which leads to diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

So why don’t we make more money off of food, particularly with more than 1 million blacks working in food service fields.

That’s because brand names like Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima have been dependable cash cows for conglomerates for a century and our culinary skill has been something we display at church socials.

On the second day of National Black Business Month, you can do something about that.  Glory Foods, a product of agribusiness research based in Columbus, OH; Smokey G. Robinson Foods, the outgrowth of leveraging his musical appeal; and Sylvia’s Soul Food, a spinoff from the successful Harlem restaurant are on the cutting edge of the growing awareness among African-Americans that food processing is an industry where by all rights we should be dominant.

If your grocer has those brands and even more of the local and regional brands popping up, buy them.  If they’re not on the shelves, ask why.

Today, an example of brand identity is holding the grand opening for the new Powell’s Soul Food on Third Street in San Francisco’s Bayview/Hunters Point district with a gospel brunch.   Emmett Powell and the Gospel Elites are a global draw, as has been his fried chicken in San Francisco.

This evening, I’m going to take a yoga class with Jan Hutchins, proprietor of the Los Gatos Yoga Center.  He’s a former broadcast news and sports anchor and once the mayor of the suburb of San Jose, who has taken his love of yoga into a venture for the past 20 years.

Not only is there a business in eating, but an even bigger opportunity in mitigating the health consequences of eating too much.   So hopefully, my yoga session will help me after my brunch at Farmer Brown’s yesterday and the hot pastrami sandwich I got from Miyako Ice Cream Shop on the way home.

I was pleased to see another instance of black business on PBS.   Soulful Symphony, an all-black symphonic performance produced by Maryland Public Television. Just another reason why Maryland is rated the number one state for black business in this years State of Black Business report.

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One thought on “Brands and identity

  1. “So why don’t we make more money off of food, particularly with more than 1 million blacks working in food service fields.

    That’s because brand names like Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima have been dependable cash cows for conglomerates for a century and our culinary skill has been something we display at church socials.”

    I don’t understand the connection between the existence of conglomerates and why blacks aren’t making money in food.

    Like the notion of buying stock in black companies.

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