Tell Me What You Eat, and I’ll Tell You Who You Are
Shady Bahsoun Amst 276 December 8,2009 Research Paper #2 “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are” “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you who you are” once said French lawyer and gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.With the growth of food import/export around the world and the opportunities of expansion in foreign coutries: Could Brillat-Savarin’s statement still be possible today or has it completely lost ground? Food is one of the fields in which globalization has faced and is facing very strong and persistent resistance across the globe.How do firms work past this? With climate, flora and tastes changing from one region to another, our blue planet houses a plethora of different grains, which are first cultivated, to be later eaten by humans and animals.This being said, we can take the example of the Far East, China, and Japan.
In that part of the world, rice is the central ingredient in almost everything agricultural. This old and historical tradition has not faded over time.
Figures by the UNCTAD, Secretariat from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations show that consumption of rice in China has gone from 50 million metric ton in 1961 to 160 millions metric ton in 2002. Same increasing trend applies to the other countries of the Far East, India and South East Asia (“UNCTAD Infocomm Market information in the commodities area”). The new agro-industrial advancements have made this leap possible. William Marling emphasizes on the fact that babies raised in different cultures develop a sensibility to what they are given to eat.After the common “milk-stage” cultures distinguish from one another and serve their children with the central cultural nutriment: Japanese children “are encouraged to focus on the texture and mouth feel of rice […]” in the United States “infants off the bottle [are fed] applesauce, strained plums or apricots” (Marling, 2006, p. 89-90). Thus children who later grow up are impregnated with their traditional childhood food preferences, they may lean more towards a sugary or salty cuisine, fat/nonfat, sweet/sour.
This is, until this very day, the major reason for which big food corporations cannot simply transpose products from one market to another and expect them to fare equally well. The differences actually go beyond simply food, why do Japanese people not eat parboiled rice? Because the eating utensils they use do not correspond to this type of rice, it is like trying to eat soup with a fork. Exporting American parboiled rice to Japan and other chopsticks-using countries will inevitably fail.My first experience eating a whole meal with my hands was in an Ethiopian restaurant in New York City: Food is served with a type of soft pita named “Injera”. One may guess that food that requires either chopsticks or the western fork-knife dyad are not the most successful in Ethiopia. If what we eat and how we eat it is so much different from one corner of earth to another, how come some food corporations are posted in rich countries as well as extremely poor ones, in sour eating cultures as well as sugar eating ones? the list of divergences is extremely long.It would be wrong to say that big multinational corporations have been successful directly after starting business in new countries.
Helmut Maucher was the chief executive of Nestle – number one corporation in the food industry – for several years; He was one of the few who really understood what was needed in order to achieve market penetration: adaptation. In an old interview “NESTLE SHOWS HOW TO GOBBLE MARKETS The world’s No. 1 food company wrote the book on global expansion: Think long term, adapt products to cultures, and expect to lose big while building market share. The chief executive insists on how important it is to analyze and understand a market before launching any product; and if the product does not seem to fit the target market at first, Maucher said he was ready to accept losses on the short-term if it has the potential to lead to future sales (Tully, 1989). How may a product fail if not correctly remodeled? “Campbell’s canned soups mostly vegetable and beef combinations packed in extra-large cans did not catch on in soup-loving Brazil.A postmortem study showed that most Brazilian housewives felt they were not fulfilling their roles if they served soup that they could not call their own” (Smith, 2007). Globalization faces a tough resistance in the field of food not only because of incompatible tastes (although it is one major reason) but also because of cultural aspects, how it is eaten, how it looks, if the marketing strategy suits the target well “Foreign food companies took a beating in China until they learned that the Chinese believe in “cooling” and “warming” foods” (Marling, 2006, p.
4). Smith shows us that Brazilian women were reluctant to buy Campbell’s canned soups because it alters the role they play in the kitchen. They do not like the idea that the soup is already made, they want to feel they were part of the process. “[instead,]Brazilian housewives had no problems using dehydrated competitive products, such as Knorr and Maggi” (Smith, 2007) because those products only did part of the job, housewives did not feel useless. Another big food chain, which underwent strategical restructuration, is KFC, Kentucky Fried Chicken.KFC was exported to China in 1987 right when China was starting to loosen the grip it had over its economy. The owner of KFC is Yum brands who also owns other franchises like Pizza Hut: “Yum has discovered it cannot rely on a foreign brand name for growth and must instead adapt to local tastes and lifestyles.
So KFC has given a Chinese twist to its menu by adding dishes similar to the food that tens of millions of Chinese grab from street stalls or small restaurants on their way to work every day” (Shen, 2008).This could be considered as a concession: If you want your firm to establish itself on any foreign territory some sacrifices should be expected, you have to please the local clientele and try to minimize cultural shock. In this case, KFC had to add local or at least local-inspired products to its menu. In a nutshell when people do business out of a good as complex as food where thousands of variables and criteria intervene it is imperative to know that any new product/brand introduced on a foreign market with no consideration for the taste, customs, mentality or even color signification is very likely going to fail.Corporations have to invest resources into R;D, psychological reporting, on-site assessment and experimenting to know if what they have to offer stands any chance of surviving. Hence globalization in this highly competitive sector is presented with many obstacles it will have to dismantle over time if it wants to succeed.References Marling, W.
H. (2006). How “American” is globalization? Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins U. P. Tully, Shawn (16 Jan 1989). Nestle shows how to gobble markets. Fortune, Retrieved Dec 9 2008, from http://money.
cnn. om/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/1989/01/16/71522/index. htm Smith, Jo Ann (2007). Developing global marketing strategy. Retrieved December 10, 2008, from http://www. web-articles. info/e/a/title/Developing-global-marketing-strategy/ UNCTAD Infocomm Market information in the commodities area.
Retrieved December 9, 2008, from UNCTAD InfoComm Web site: http://unctad. org/infocomm/anglais/rice/market. htm Shen, Samuel (2008, May, 5). Kentucky Fried Chicken banks on China. International Herald Tribune, from http://www. iht. com/articles/2008/05/05/business/kfc.