2. As the US population becomes more and more multicultural and more global, why does the “international aisle” still exist in major grocery store chains?
Established after the second World War to accommodate the traveled palates of servicemen, the international food aisle has been a fixture in supermarkets ever since (1). In the 1940’s and 50’s, labelling international food as distinct from American reflected the heightened nationalism of the time embraced by the predominant demographic of supermarket shoppers- suburban white Americans (2). Even today, the current socio-political climate creates clear cultural distinctions between ‘American’ and ‘other.’ For example, recent passing of laws allowing for racial profiling in Arizona, the public support for building a wall on the US-Mexico border and the creation of federal travel bans for Middle Eastern countries demonstrate that these perceptions are still very prevalent in the American psyche. These political tactics and ideas promote a division between white Americans and those perceived to be ‘other.’ One resulting effect is that food products not included in commercially white American cuisine continue to be labeled ‘ethnic’ or ‘international’ and placed in separate sections within supermarkets (3). Hopefully, as America grows more diverse and the widespread perception of what it means to be ‘American’ expands, the need for an international aisle will disappear.