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station_wagons_not_expected_to_make_a_comeback.jpgWhy don’t Americans drive station wagons? I am sure that is a burning question on everyone’s mind. Right? Actually, I am betting a more relevant question is: “What on earth is he talking about and what does this have to do with bakery cafes?” Bear with me. There is a parallel thread here.

I don’t like SUVs. They are big. They hog resources. They are expensive. They are just too much. But I like the space when I need to haul our dogs on vacation. As it turns out, there is a better way to get that space. That’s right; station wagons. In Europe, nine of the ten top-selling models are available as station wagons. What about here in the United States? Other than Subaru, can most people even name a wagon? Public perception is that station wagons are relics and SUVs are superior vehicles, compared to a station wagon.

About the same time that station wagons were being run off the road by the explosion of minivans and SUVs, the big thing in healthy eating was to cut fat. Everything was low or no fat. People made — and lost — fortunes on diet fads capitalizing on the low fat/no fat food trend.

I caught up with a good friend last night who I hadn’t spoken to in years. His question was: “Forget about just gluten-free; isn’t the entire carb business tough right now? And do you see it changing?”

new_grain_bowls_on_the_right_side_of_food_trends.jpgMy answers were no and no — which is okay because the carb business doesn’t need to change as circumstances are hardly tough. In fact, quite the opposite. But there was no convincing my friend. Despite data trends that indicate we are in a golden age for bread. Whole grains are finally getting their due when it comes to health benefits. Bread sales are up. We are in the sweet spot. It all fell on deaf ears. I told him about our high-quality artisan breads— stuff you can’t get at the grocery store. I shared my excitement over our new grain bowls. (If you haven’t tried one yet, they feature delicious wheat berries, quinoa, and a mix of other high-quality, fresh ingredients, for a lighter way to consume our amazing wheat. I love those things). But there was no convincing him. To each, his own.

Back to the low fat/no fat food craze. Whatever happened to it? Eventually, it slowed down. Then it got tired. Then it died altogether when science finally prevailed, and people began to understand that you need fat to live. Just choose good fats.

The exact same thing is true with gluten-free but before I get into that, let me say again that gluten-free is different. It is not just a diet fad. Gluten concerns are very real for people with gluten disorders. If that applies to you, I will always respect that and hope for your health. But for the gluten-free by choice person, science still says: "You can’t and shouldn’t eliminate complete food groups from your diet just because 'they' say to." 

It may take time, but more and more of the public is coming to understand that bread and carbs are fine. As long as you don’t eat junk. Making smart, quality food choices across food groups is generally preferable to eliminating an entire class of food.

healthy_and_delicious_is_always_on_trend.jpgWant good fat? Eat an avocado. Forget the French fries. Want good carbs? Eat Dakota. Forget Wonder Bread. And you know what else? Just like an avocado tastes better than a French fry (I’m sure I will get some push back on that), Dakota bread vs. basic factory-made white bread? Not even close.

Fat came back. Now, so are carbs and bread. It took a generation for fat to come back but it is already happening with bread. (Thank you, Oprah!)

Does this mean station wagons are climbing their way back to popularity? No way. In their case, they can’t come back. Why? Station wagons count as cars in the fuel mileage standards car companies have to meet. But SUVs are trucks and therefore excluded.

If Audi sells me a 30 mpg station wagon (that is what I drive, but it is 12 years old), it hurts Audi in terms of meeting the government mandated mpg standards because the mandate is above 30 mpg. (Anything below the mandate for cars drives down their averages making it harder for them to comply.) If they sell me a 20 mpg SUV about the same size as my car, my mpg goes down, but this doesn't hurt their compliance efforts because SUVs aren't counted (remember, they are "trucks.") The environment and I are both much better off with me driving a 30 mpg wagon, and I would love a new one, but it doesn't make business sense for Audi to make one under the regulations. What they are offering me is an SUV. The SUV fad is here to stay until we treat them as they should be. Start calling the SUVs cars. Then station wagons will come roaring back.

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Read more:
A New Era at the Great Harvest Franchise
Future of the Food Business: A Changing Food Landscape
A Sneak Peek at the Crave-Worthy Future of Great Harvest

Image credits: ©By CZmarlin — Christopher Ziemnowicz [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons; modified by text overlay.

I am Mike Ferretti, the Chairman and CEO of Great Harvest. But, I am also a dad who grew up in a world with old fashioned business ethics. Before Great Harvest, I thought those days and companies were gone. Luckily, I now get to work with a group with a strong moral compass that genuinely lives "Give generously to others" and "Run fast to serve customers." And we do it with more than just lip service in a way that allows us to set an example for others. I am proud that my kids are proud of what I do for a living.