August 20th, 2018

My Letter from America

5 Things that two weeks in Florida taught me

I’ve recently returned from a 2 week break in Florida and a fair few things took me by surprise, here are my top observations:

1. High Quality Fresh Produce

I hadn’t realised how poor the fresh produce is in the UK, mostly only lasting a few days in the fridge and lacking any taste beyond water. I wasn’t expecting the US to teach me a thing or two about the quality of food! But the steaks, burgers, pineapple, sweetcorn and strawberries had a taste I hadn’t witnessed at home for 20 years. Even the display of greens hits you as being fresher than fresh. It might be that the best produce is on their doorstep and we have to import a lot of our produce, but it really opened my eyes in a way I hadn’t expected given the McDonald’s generation we associate with our American counterparts. Surely an opportunity exists for the key retailers in the UK to differentiate themselves beyond price by improving the quality of their fresh produce.

2. Supersize Me

Everything is just bigger - the local Walmart blew my mind in terms of its scale - it felt like it was the size of Wimbledon!  Beyond that, it’s the fact that everything you buy is much bigger; bags of sweets, cartons of drink, etc. At virtually every restaurant we visited you got instant refills of the world’s famous carbonated beverages - no wonder they have an obesity crisis on their hands. No sooner had you put your glass down and the server (AKA waitress) had put another drink down. My wife and I asked to share a salad, they laid it down in front of her and she said “We asked if you’d split the salad” and the response was: “We have, that’s just half a portion!”.

3. Plastic Fantastic

The US could learn a thing or two about plastic and waste. Virtually every single item that was bagged in Walmart was done so in one plastic bag. The wave of plastic abuse in the US is on a different scale than what we have here in the UK. I did however advocate the cereal packaging which you can simply buy in refills, thereby eliminating the need for the cardboard box. I very much doubt that they were recyclable refills though. An opportunity for us to follow up on here in the UK?

4. Guns, Guns, Guns

The Second Amendment to the US Constitution is everywhere you go, from gun ranges along most of the streets, to the ability to buy and arm yourself with your weapon of choice in Walmart. We hear and see the mass shootings from afar, but by being up close and personal you realise how omnipresent guns are across the USA. It filled me with fear as it’s just so easy to pick up a gun and kill someone!

5. Fat or Thin

Now this might well be a Florida tainted view, but people in general were either super sporty or mildly obese. There simply didn’t seem to be any middle ground. Not being on the thin side myself I can see how easy it is to just consume everything. The Donut Experiment (thedonutexperiment.com) made life even harder,  you pick and choose your favourite toppings and order a box of 12 amazing doughnuts. It makes Krispy Kreme feel like Little Chef, a new taste sensation to hit my senses. Mike’s Hot Honey in a milkshake is another irresistible treat: https://mikeshothoney.com/.

All told the fresh produce was the biggest surprise and something many UK retailers could learn from and look to replicate. The rest just shocked me, you sort of expect Supersize Me but the plastic abuse and love of guns was on another scale!