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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Regionalization of Big Food

As corporate growth slows, companies are trying to appeal to a broader audience by reaching out to millions of people in developing countries to purchase their products. Will this form of regionalization be beneficial to the people or is it “Big Food” profiting over corporate responsibility?

Nestlé Corporation, the world's largest food company, recently launched a barge called Nestlé Até Você a Bordo– or Nestlé Takes You On Board. It is an 18-day voyage along the Amazon River in Brazil to reach the poor through a movable supermarket bringing more than 300 Nestlé brands to the people of the Amazon.

Ivan Zurita, Nestlé Brazil's spokesperson, said, "the barge will service the population of the Amazon whose streets are lined by the river." Zurita continues by stating that Nestle's project is part of the company's concept of "Regionalization, based on different profiles of consumers, where we deal with each region as adifferent area."

Nestlé’s interest seems to present a public health problem. The Amazonians live in an environment with nutrient packed plants indigenous to the area. Various fruits, seeds and plants used for medicine have been the mainstay for the local industry and have provided the people of the Amazon with healthy food choices. Many of Nestlé’s products contain synthetic ingredients. Shouldn't it be the responsibility of Nestle Corporation to expose brands that are compatible with the Amazonian dietinstead of introducing brands containing fake additives, providing no health benefits to the consumer, and could potentially be harmful to the people of that area?

The Amazonians have lived off an ancient culture and can continue without prepackaged, processed Maggi soups and seasonings or Ninho (packaged milk). Nestle's contention that it will help eradicate poverty by selling the products and also help develop the communities, is questionable. Employing thousands of urban women who are in many cases the main source of income for their family's is going to benefit the community, but using them as a vehicle to hawk unhealthy food is not going to benefit the people of the region.

Many people are aware of the natural products from the Amazon, which some companies have turned into branded health products (Acai being one of them) and have helped the indigenous cultures along the way. The bountiful gifts we have been given helped us to become a healthier society. Nestlé, the largest food company, should take the responsibility to return the favor.

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