When the Harvard Business Review starts publishing warnings about the changing consumer preference from shiny and slick to hand made and less than perfect, it should be a pretty good indication that times are changing.

Grant McCracken is a research affiliate at MIT and the author of “Chief Culture Officer: How to Create a Living, Breathing Corporation” His most recent book is “Culturematic: How Reality TV, John Cheever, a Pie Lab, Julia Child, Fantasy Football . . . Will Help You Create and Execute Breakthrough Ideas” 

He thinks P&G, the most buttoned down, straight laced model of success has something to worry about by those pesky little farmers markets:

The new consumer. We are watching the death of the old model of consumer taste and preference. Consider those farmers’ markets . This should put a chill of terror down the spine of P&G. For the farmers’ market contradicts perhaps the most fundamental assumption of P&G manufacture and marketing: that consumers want their goods immaculate, appearing as if by magic in the local supermarket and drug store. Done and done. Now consumers actually want to meet the producer, to see imperfections, to see the dirt still attached. They actually want to say hi to the farmer, or at least to have some picture of the people who made their fashions or grew their coffee beans. The industrial era of production has come and gone. And it’s departure puts the P&G proposition at risk.

via The Black Swans Circling P&G – Grant McCracken – Harvard Business Review.

While P&G has been quietly exiting the food business (if you can consider Pringles Potato products food), the reality is that there is a real shift happening toward small and local. At least in middle and upper income households. Couple that with poor people in inner cities growing their own food in Victory Garden style urban gardens, and the need for trusted information on best practices in sustainable food production is growing.

Chart of growth of Farmers Markets in the US according to the USDA

Growth of Farmers markets in the US, 08/03/2012 USDA numbers

Growth of farmers markets, with their less than sophisticated marketing systems should have major food producers rethinking their factory like approach to marketing food. This is great news for the sustainable farmer, and bad news for the shrink wrapped food assembly lines.