1. noun: A worker who practices a trade or handicraft. One that produces something (as cheese or wine) in limited quantities often using traditional methods
2. adjective: pertaining to or noting high-quality, distinctive products made in small quantities. Example: artisan beer.
Notice that this definition of the word “artisan” does not include any references to mass-produced chips or chain restaurant pizza. However, bags of mass-produced chips and chain restaurant pizza are being marketed as “artisan,” as are many other products.
USA Today noted this word’s rise in popularity in a recent article, which was picked up by the news/gossip blog Gawker. A word of warning: If foul language offends you, you may want to read the USA Today story and skip the Gawker story. However, if foul language amuses you, you’ll probably enjoy Gawker’s take on this.
As the USA Today story points out, everyone from Domino’s to Tostitos to Starbucks is jumping on the artisenal bandwagon. Is it accurate for them to use that word to describe the products? Is it fair?
This calls to mind another food marketing buzz word: organic. However, unlike artisan, special rules must be followed in order to earn the right to use the word organic. We could debate whether it means much to jump through those hoops, but what interests me more is how the word artisan could be regulated. Do they send inspectors into a plant to see whether an old Mexican grandmother is making the chips or someone’s nonna is tossing the pizza dough?
Perhaps it makes more sense for consumers to be savvy enough to understand that many of the words in food commercials and on food packaging should be taken with a grain of salt. Perhaps one could argue that since Domino’s makes its pizzas one at a time and if Tostitos makes its artisan chips in small batches, they can use that word.
I don’t know. It all makes me think of the series “Mad Men,” where a bunch of clever marketing folks sit in a room and brainstorm ways to get the average Joe to buy the product. Some of those scenes are rather disturbing.