Starting from the ’70s Supermarkets have replaced most of old & dear neighbourhood shops, forcing them to close down. The victory of supermarket over traditional shops was possible not only because of their lower prices but rather by the increased availability of processed food and the pervasive use of preservatives which can extend the shelf time. On the positive side we should consider that preservatives decreased bacterial infections and disease caused by food gone bad. Another important point is that the time we have to spend shopping for food and cooking it in the kitchen has been dramatically reduced. Before WW2 a woman (or a man) had to spend an average of 5 and half hour a day in the kitchen with only an average of 45 minutes today.
But on the negative side side there are several different factors which are seldom taken into consideration by the public, such as the increasing ingestion of chemicals — including artificial sweeteners to replace fats and sugars — for which not all the side effects have been fully investigated, since most of them had been in use no longer than a few decades. Common antimicrobial preservatives include Calcium propionate, Sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite, sulphites, EDTA, Antioxidants, Formaldehyde, ethanol and several others (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preservative).
A growing awareness about going organic on our food is clear to all, including to Supermarket chains, and this explain why they are staking shelves loaded with Org indicators while putting a price premium on it because of their supposed organicity. But this appears to be only a fiction. When we look at the expiration date we do realize that something is wrong there: those organic foodstuff are not really organic, being labelled with an expire date going on for years, in some cases. Such a long shelf time can only be due to the addition of preservatives.
On the social side of this matter few studies have been made on the disappearing middle class of shop keepers, once ridiculed as low and narrow minded but in fact a factor of social stability in society. It was a social category which has since disappeared, thus increasing unemployment and widening the Gini Factor by creating a larger gap between the poor and the rich, a factor leading to social instability.
The future of the Supermarkets will depend, after all, on the number of diseases appearing in the ‘Supermarket Generation’ which include broadly speaking all the children born after the 70s. Their cancer rate and general health will tell us if the abandonment of the traditional net of neighbourhood shops was a wise decision or a costly and painful mistake.