Nirmal has been thinking about fungi, food and wellness for over a decade, so he bought a farm land with Redwoods “just for fun.” At the time, his day job was CMO at Clickatell, a global technology leader and innovator in mobile messaging and commerce. At Clickatell, he helped build revenues from $50M to over $100M, led the team that launched the game-changing Chat Commerce platform—and coined the term itself—that’s rapidly changing the way we interact with the brands on mobile phones.
But always in the back of this foodie’s mind, was fungi and how he could completely upend it’s visibility and elevate it to its rightful place in the world of fantastic-tasting healthy eating. In 2020, he founded Sempera to do just that. From his initial training as a mechanical engineer to software to digital video to mobile to food and nutrition; Nirmal has built his career paving new paths. He’s got big plans on the horizon for Sempera.
Conscious eating for consumers goes beyond “I’m in the mood for such and such,” or, “I choose this to balance my diet and because I haven’t had it in awhile.” Conscious eating is much deeper and more complex than dieting for weight management or any other health goal.
The conscious consumer is beginning to look at his or her food choices in a way that is humane, empathetic and sustainable.
The principles summarized below create a portrait of how the conscious consumer chooses to eat—and will increasingly expect to eat.
Just as it is important to think about the entire connected chain in any act of “conscious consumption,” the same principle also applies to our food choices, with perhaps the additional dimension being that the food choice then literally becomes a part of who we are!
In his 1825 classic volume The Physiology of Taste: Or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy, author Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin famously said: “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”
More recently, Michael Pollan, in his book In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, extends the well-known phrase “you are what you eat” to the next level in the food chain: “You are what you eat eats.” This can be extended even a level further. For example, after thinking about the type of grass that a cow eats, also consider the quality of the nutrients in the soil in which that grass grows to better understand what you are ultimately consuming.
Another fascinating area of consideration in thinking about our food choices is to examine what humans have been evolved by nature to optimally eat. For example, a lion has carnivorous teeth, which are clearly intended for meat and cannot be used for grazing. The digestive system of the lion is such that it cannot receive nourishment except from meat. The eagle has a crooked beak (the lower part shorter than the upper) and therefore cannot pick up grain or graze and is compelled to eat meat. Cows and horses, on the other end of the spectrum, have herbivorous teeth formed to cut grass, as well as types of stomachs specially designed for digesting plants.
Human molars have been formed to grind grain, and the front teeth with the incisors are for eating fruits and similar foods. Humans have not evolved to solely eat meat in the same way that a carnivore has, nor to only graze on grass such as an herbivore--hence, H. sapiens is classified as an omnivore. This means that consumers can choose to omit any animal foods from their diets and still survive, if not thrive.
As an expert on the subject, Pollan’s notable brief response to the question “What should I eat?” is: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
However, as Pollan’s readers know, these seven words can be expanded upon by hundreds of pages with numerous layers of depth and backed by many scientific studies.
A recent article in Scientific American titled Eat to Save the Planet explains: “Cutting meat consumption is a powerful and personal thing most Americans can do to tackle the climate crisis, and they can do it immediately. About 40 percent of greenhouse gases come from agriculture, deforestation and other land-use changes. Meat—particularly beef—drives climate change in two ways: first, through cows’ emission of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and second, by destroying forests as they are converted to grazing land.”
Pollan also points out, “Social action is contagious—in a good way.” As more consumers begin to eat less meat and discuss these choices, they will likely influence others. This will have demonstrable results such as the 1% reduction in greenhouse gases becoming 2% or more. Reduced demand for meat could motivate local supermarkets to carry a richer diversity and quantity of produce, making it easier for conscious consumers to prepare a few more satisfying meat-free meals. Ultimately, distinct changes in demand influences industry, product development and retail. For example, 40 years ago few mainstream supermarkets carried organic products and if they did, the selection was minimal. Today, it’s nearly impossible to find a supermarket or grocery that has no organic produce. This significant change was a response to consumer demand and behavior.
The change in the climate also has a direct impact on our food supply. For example, the historic heat wave Europe caused many key crop production volumes to drop by 30% or more. The continued impact of this trend could impact the very stability of our societies, from inflation, to food shortages and rationing, to populations turning to more authoritarian forms of governance.
As consumers increasingly become more conscious about their food choices, they are realizing how seemingly simple everyday food choices can have a profound effect on their lives and the societies in which they live.
NOTE: WholeFoods Magazine is a business-to-business publication. Information on this site should not be considered medical advice or a way to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. Always seek the advice of a medical professional before making lifestyle changes, including taking a dietary supplement. The opinions expressed by contributors and experts quoted in articles are not necessarily those of the publisher or editors of WholeFoods.