How We Eat: The Brave New World of Food and Drink (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Paco Underhill’s techniques, adopted from urban planning research, led to Why We Buy, a book that has shaped the behavior of many retailers, including mine. In How We Eat, he turns to food retailing, but the authorly stroll through the average supermarket morphs to an image of an abandoned shopping cart, what with so much of retail moving online. Throughout, How We Eat ponders ethical questions of always-in-season produce, growing concern about animal processing, consumption, and ultra-processed foods, albeit with a light touch. There is more pondering and interviewing of experts here and less findings from Envirosell studies. When we did get consumer behavior insight, like the supermarket chain that found that doing some cleaning during the day instead of when the store was closed improved customer ratings, I savored it. All told, lots of interesting ideas to digest here! 

— Daniel Goldin


An “eye-opening” (Kirkus Reviews) and timely exploration of how our food—from where it’s grown to how we buy it—is in the midst of a transformation, showing how this is our chance to do better, for us, for our children, and for our planet, from a global expert on consumer behavior and bestselling author of Why We Buy.

Our food system is undergoing a total transformation that impacts how we produce, get, and consume our food. Market researcher and bestselling author Paco Underhill—hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as “a Sherlock Holmes for retailers”—reveals where our eating and drinking lives are heading in his “delectable” (Michael Gross, New York Times bestselling author of 740 Park) book, How We Eat.

In this upbeat, hopeful, and witty approach, How We Eat reveals the future of food in surprising ways. Go to the heart of New York City where a popular farmer’s market signifies how the city is getting country-fied, or to cool Brooklyn neighborhoods with rooftop farms. Explore the dreaded supermarket parking lot as the hub of innovation for grocery stores’ futures, where they can grow their own food and host community events. Learn how marijuana farmers, who have been using artificial light to grow a crop for years, have developed a playbook so mainstream merchants like Walmart and farmers across the world can grow food in an uncertain future.

Paco Underhill is the expert behind the most prominent brands, consumer habits, and market trends and the author of multiple highly acclaimed books, including Why We Buy. In How We Eat, he shows how food intersects with every major battle we face today, from political and environmental to economic and racial, and invites you to the market to discover more.

About the Author

Paco Underhill was the founder of Envirosell, Inc., a global research and consulting firm. His clients include more than a third of the Fortune 100 list, and he has worked on supermarket, convenience store, food, beverage, and restaurant issues in fifty countries. He is the bestselling author of Why We Buy, The Call of the Mall, What Women Want, and his newest book, How We Eat. He has also written articles for or been profiled in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New Yorker, Smithsonian Magazine, and more. Paco divides his time between New York City and Madison, Connecticut.

Praise For…

"Paco Underhill has passion, perception, a hunger for understanding human behavior, and eyes in the back of his head. How We Eat is a delectable feast. Devour it!"
—Michael Gross, New York Times bestselling author of 740 Park, Model, and House of Outrageous Fortune

“Paco is a visionary and a great storyteller. He has the rare ability not only to dissect the present, but also to envision what the future must be for a business to be successful. He describes the dull, lifeless stores of today, where food and beverages are sold as commodities and then imagines a future where the stores themselves must become theater and vibrant centers of experience and excitement in order to flourish. Paco’s fascination with the way we shop is infectious. His passion jumps off every page. This is a must read book for anyone in any kind of retail business.”
—Sara Miss, vice chairman of The Estée Lauder companies; Mike Gould, former chairman and CEO of Bloomingdale’s

“For years Paco Underhill has helped the world's best companies see around corners and anticipate what's next. Now with How We Eat, he lets readers see what will soon be coming to their kitchen table. Bon Appetite!”
—Adam Adamson, co-founder of Metaforce

"As with Paco’s earlier works, How We Eat is a continuing education for ethnographic practitioners and users alike.  While I’ve spent countless hours observing shoppers in supermarkets and liquor stores, I had never considered starting my observations in…the parking lot. Thus, this book adds to existing knowledge and offers totally new insights into consumers’ interactions with food—all presented in a light, entertaining style that is very easy to digest."
—Rich Boone, Retired Global Director of Consumer Insights, E & J Gallo Winery

"Tick Tock. Tick Tock. It's food o'clock! Wake up retailers, foodies and eaters of all persuasions. Time to vigilantly follow Paco Underhill's legendary recipes. Time to fire up a powerful ritual from the ashes of the boring habitual."
—Kate Newlin, Newlin Consulting

"Paco Underhill’s insights are like nouvelle cuisine at the finest restaurant: Paco sees the essence of what drives us to buy and eat, reframes the issues using his global experience, and combines them in a way that help us understand how to do it new and better."
—Matt Winn, Partner & Chief Development Officer, What If Syndicate/Former Global Retail COO at Cushman & Wakefield

"Be prepared to put on a pair of X-ray goggles and be taken on a journey of discovery that will change forever your understanding of how food is produced, consumed and enjoyed. From global supply chains to local micro-breweries,  our awareness of this ecosystem has never been more important for our palate and for our planet."
—Andrea Dorigo, senior vice president & general manager at Estée Lauder

“As one who spent his youth working in a farmers market, his adult life writing about retail, and who occasionally breaks bread and bends the elbow with Paco Underhill, I (pardon the expression) devoured this book. Paco’s observations of How We Eat are always surprising, engaging and tasty.”
—Robert Spector, author of The Nordstrom Way and The Mom & Pop Store

How We Eat is not a technical book about food. It is a masterful adventure through the coffee shop, around the grocery store, and across the road to the farmer’s market. Paco’s power of observation comes to life through humorous and engaging stories that open your eyes to the world of food retailing and all the things we take for granted in what and how we eat. On par with Kitchen Confidential, How We Eat lays open the underbelly of what goes in our bellies! A must read for anyone curious about the food we eat and why we buy what we buy. Destined to be another classic alongside Why We Buy."
—Andy Murray, Dean at the Walton School of Business at the University of Arkansas

"How We Eat is a fascinating journey down the rabbit hole of consumerism and how evolving cultural and societal shifts have had a myriad of impacts on our relationship with food and the business of selling it. Seen through Underhill’s unique lens of personal experiences and professional expertise as one of the world’s foremost shopping anthropologists, How We Eat raises questions—from the mundane to the profound, with equally important implications—that will make you rethink not just how we eat and shop, but how we interact, live and coexist."
—Jessie Dowd, Editorial Director of Path to Purchase Institute

“An eye-opening journey…Hopeful and enlightening commentary on the future of the food industry.” 
—Kirkus Review

“An interesting behind-the-scenes look at the [food]  industry that will surprise readers at what might be coming…Written in an informal, conversational style, this is an enlightening look at a central part of human life.” 
Library Journal

“Underhill turns a critical and scientific eye toward modern food distribution and marketing...Underhill’s marketing perspective ably supplements other critics’ reproaches of our contemporary food supply.” 

Product Details
ISBN: 9781982127091
ISBN-10: 1982127090
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: January 4th, 2022
Pages: 256
Language: English