Posted by Juan C S Herrera – PhD Student at Steinhardt / Food Studies and Food management at NYU
After three weeks in Bogotá, Colombia, I took a stroll through one of the city’s main roads, 7th Avenue. There you can find several food options ranging from international food chains to Colombian food corporations, as well as affordable local adaptations of international foods to traditional corn on the cob and fresh fruit vendors. The availability of food options is linked to the preferences of Colombian consumers.
Food preferences have changed over the last decades. The reasons underlying the changes can be found in the relationship between the macro economic, social, and political space and how those macro variables play a role in the individual formation of food preferences. At the macro level, one can find four major changes that affect the availability of food products and therefore influence individual’s food preferences.
First, over the last four decades Colombia´s per capita GDP has grown from $529 in 1975 to $6,044 in 2015 according to the World Bank. This changes food preferences as Colombians have, on average, more purchasing power to buy food, therefore their income restrictions allow them to choose from a broader set of goods.
Second, Colombia´s trade policy has moved from a semi-closed economy before 1991 to an open trade one after 1991. As of July 2017 Colombia has 16 Free Trade Agreements covering over 60 countries. Trade agreements modify the availability of food products which may change food preferences as consumers are exposed to new products to choose from.
Third, access to information has improved in Colombia as consumers get connected to the Internet. With ease of access to global resources, media, and advertising, consumer´s food preferences may change as they get information on ingredients, preparation, food trends, and food discourses.
Fourth, the chef´s role in an interconnected world. As Colombian chefs become professional with the rise of culinary schools in Colombian cities, chef´s get more involved on international professional networks. As Colombian chefs join networks, such as the Basque Culinary Center, and get involved with other chefs, they have started questioning what defines Colombian food. This has resulted in the development of what is known as New Colombian Cuisine (Nueva Cocina Colombiana), an effort by chefs to make use of local ingredients, rediscover traditional techniques, and reconnect with the local. The popularity of these new trends fueled by media coverage, may also be contributing to a shift in on the Colombian consumer’s preferences.
Tracing shifts in food preferences is an elusive quest that has been approached by Food Scholars in several ways from using food production and trade data, to household surveys, and food expenditures and sales data. However, these approaches do not provide detailed information on food preferences such as: How have ingredient combination preferences changed? How have dishes changed? How are Colombians using newly available ingredients? Are newly available ingredients substituting other ingredients or are they being added to old recipes?
Stay tuned to my upcoming blog posts to find out how archival research on recipes can approximate changes in food preferences in Colombia over the last decades.