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Are food delivery apps the natural evolution of the modern day gatherer?

Hyatt Saba

The Modern Hunter Gatherer

It’s deadly cold and completely dark, the frost crunches underfoot as the Hunter dressed in the skins of previous hunts, stalks his prey. Advancing in silence, the fog from his breath nearly giving him away, he is armed with nothing more than a primitive spear, aimed and ready for the attack. He strikes, he hits his prey. The beast struggles and slowly gives its existence to nourish the human hunter and his community. The hunter carries the heavy, bloody beast back to his settlement. Nearly daybreak now, he skins and guts the animal and plans how to uses every part of the beast, he knows he will not always be this lucky, his scars evidence of many lost prior battles and colder days are coming. He and his family feast and preserve what they can. They trade with neighbouring communities for other commodities. This beast has fed and ensured economic success for this hunter’s family for now.

It’s dark, the frost and cold outside are irrelevant as the modern hunter gatherer picks up his mobile phone, opens an app and picks from a list of delicious, calorie counted food options to be delivered to his door, even leaving someone else to brave the elements.

How did we get here? Are we simply using the tools of our time to enable our basic human need – to eat? Or are we enabling the laziness, promoting childhood obesity and ultimately contributing to the destruction of the planet. With an estimated worldwide worth of $156 billion (US) by 2023*, and solid incline year on year, this movement is no fad, the expectation for food delivery is the new norm. How can we and why would we ever go back?

Is food delivery technology simply the natural evolution of the modern day gatherer?

Food sourcing has gradually become outsourced to experts in each part of the process. They would each complete their part and pass the commodity on to the next expert in a timely manner, as to not break the supply chain of such a perishable nature. A farmer harvested wheat, dried it and sent it to a mill to grind, the mill would sell its flour to a baker, which would mix flour other ingredients, bake it to perfection and stack these magnificent loaves on shelves bright and early for customers to purchase by breakfast.

For centuries, this model has existed, the butchers, the bakers and candlestick makers all sourced their raw and refined ingredients from various other experts who each added value along the supply chain, until a butcher would transform a dead, hanging beast into cleaned, cut and even visually appealing final meat products. No one wants to know how the sausages are made or what goes into them, leave that to the pros, we just want them ready to buy and throw onto the barbeque.

The only part of this model that’s changed recently is that we have closed that final link in the chain, transportation to a location of our choosing and technology has enabled this with great ease. We’ve outsourced every other part of the process, why shy away from this final step? We no longer have to wake up at an ungodly hour to go fishing, successfully catch a fish, clean and gut it, slice it in uniformly thin pieces, and figure out how to roll it in rice in a somewhat presentable manner. Instead, we can just open an app and have other people manage every part of it for us, including how to get it to us safely and quickly. All we have to do is answer the door and collect the order from an out-of-breath courier. Whether by car, bike or on foot, these food couriers, similar to our hunter gatherer ancestors, have a distinct battle to fight, rather than killing a beast or gathering berries and nuts for food, they’re on the hunt for the basics in this greenfield industry. Their battles are for consistent and fair pay structure and medical insurance in case of injuries obtained on the job.

We don’t have to look as far back as our hunter gatherer ancestors to imagine the disappointment in our indolence, just look at the attitude of our grandparents! Nowadays through the empowerment of technology, we source the whole or final food product we need at the right price and calibre and arrange deliver to where ever and whenever we need it.

Uber eats, Deliveroo, restaurant apps and grocery sites all enable us to spend our increasing precious time with our families, catching up on work, or decadently doing nothing at all. How can that be bad?