Supermarkets are labyrinthine behemoths laid out in a convenient linear fashion. So where's the maze? On the supermarket shelves, of course. Food products galore stare back at us, silently appealing to our penchants for sugar, salt, and fat. We pick and choose, knowing full well what we are getting into. But it's the hidden components that are increasingly becoming a salient issue.
If supermarket shelves are overwhelming due to the sheer diversity of items, imagine the corporate structure behind the packaging. Or don't; just let your phone do it. Scan any bar code (UPC-A, UPC-E, EAN8, EAN13...) with your phone and the free Buycott app (for iOS; a previously available Android version is now "Coming soon") will display the product's corporate family tree on the screen. The app takes knowing where your food comes from further, telling you not only what brand belongs to what company, but what that company does with your dollars.
Pulling back the curtain on corporate activity should be an easy process. For example, GMO labeling is an important issue that many aren't even aware of. (Check out Prop 37 for an introduction to both sides of the debate.)
Currently, the government doesn't require that any GMO information be passed on to the consumer. Big food corporations want it to stay that way. Monsanto, for example, spends millions of dollars to keep GMO information off of packaging. How much? Buycott will tell you.
Importantly, and promisingly, users can join campaigns (both for and against) issues that they care about. The app keeps track of user input, making it easy to shop for products that don't conflict with your beliefs. And this is what it is all about: knowing where your food comes from and where the dollars that buy it go.
If initial reaction is any gauge then it would appear this is something that consumers have been waiting for. There have been some negative user reviews as Buycott has been struggling to deal with the traffic. However, it's worth keeping an eye on, just like your grocery basket.