Tag Archives: Food Industry

Only In Spain: A Trolley Load Of Trotters

So, yesterday morning, on my way to breakfast with the archaeologists, I passed by my local deli. And did a double take 😉

They were getting in a fresh supply of hams. Note the delivery guy with clipboard, his van’s just behind me.

Ham deliveryHere’s another pic, where you can actually see the interior of the shop, with the hams dangling above the counter.

Ham deliveryThere have been a lot of ham-themed posts lately… just can’t get away from them!


Too Gay For Our Pasta? Barilla Gets Spagbol On Its Face

I spend a large part of my working week faffing around on blogs keeping up with the food industry news. Some of it is ho-hum, some of it is ha-ha (see my Hilarious Headlines posts here and here) and some of it is oh-no!  The latter tends to results from unsavoury discoveries (think horsemeat!), or from moronic statements that a gormless company exec lets rip through one of his orifices in public.

This post is about just such a shit storm, although it is not, strictly speaking, “news” anymore. The contentious utterance seeped through the airwaves a month ago. I wanted to watch the response unfold on the interwebs, and it was worth the wait.

Guido-BarillaSo, who said the stupid thing?
Guido Barilla, chairman of Italian pasta and pasta sauce maker Barilla, during a radio interview. (Barilla is the world’s leading pasta brand.)

What did he say?
Well, in response to a question regarding company’s advertising strategy, which, so far, had centred around a traditional family setting, with the mother serving food to her wedded husband and their bright eyed, bushy tailed offspring, he stated that the company would steadfastly continue to portray the “classic family” in its adverts.

Is that it..???
No. If only he’d left it at that…!

On further prodding, he said he would never use a gay couple to advertise Barilla pasta. He didn’t see things they way they did, so he continued, and if they didn’t like it, they could choose another brand of pasta.

And because his trotter clearly hadn’t sunk into the steaming pile quite far enough, he also stated that he was against homosexual couples adopting children.

(To be fair, he did say something about being in favour of gay marriage – which still lacks legal recognition in Italy – but the roar of the incredulous masses drowned that bit out.)

So, what happened next?

Well, pretty much this:

KidAnd that:


Almost immediately, the calls for a boycott started. There’s facebook page, of course there is!

But… is his opinion all that surprising?

No, there is nothing surprising at all about individuals holding these kinds of views. Nor was anyone expecting that a major food company, be it Barilla, Nestle, Kraft, Unilever, Danone or whoever, was going to feature same sex couples canoodling over their noodles or exchanging cheesy grins while spoonfeeding each other Philadelphia.

Bland and predictable continues to be the word. Let’s face it: Taking a light sabre to societal norms is not the natural terrain of companies vending kitchen cupboard staples. Grannie flashing a bare knee at gramps as she spreads Bertolli on his cracker is as edgy as it’s ever going to get.

But what I fail to understand is this: The execs of large companies are, above all, seasoned PR experts, trained not to volunteer any personal opinions or strategic data that could possibly compromise the mothership’s sales. And while a large company may ostensibly be aiming its products at a mainstream audience, WHY ON EARTH would a company boss actively go about alienating part of its consumer base?

Homosexual people, contrary to some sources, are not a mythical tribe inhabiting the deepest recesses of the Brazilian rainforest, shunning the evils of human civilisation, and in particular, dried bits of dough twisted into droll shapes. They are everybody’s family members, work colleagues, friends… In fact, a team of dedicated anthropologists who’ve been observing this species very closely in its natural habitat, aka The Real World, reported that its members eat pasta…and sometimes even TOGETHER with the “classic” people! ‘They’, one should imagine, also make up a fair number of Guido Barilla’s 14,000+ employees.

Anyway, how coming out with ill-conceived statements like these on public radio is going to bolster Barilla’s market share – which is every commercial company’s ultimate goal, surely! – remains a mystery.

Needless to say, after the public outcry broke, there was the oh-so predictable “I’m sorry if I offended anyone blah blah” fauxpology.

On the upside, the consumer backlash to such gaffes is usually quite creative. I’ve picked out a few amusing images for you:


"Here's what our traditional family has to say to Barilla" - posted on facebook

“Here’s what our traditional family has to say to Barilla” – posted on facebook

Some were quick to seize the glaring business opportunity:

Barilla 2GayPasta[I’ve collected these at random from various sites, if anyone would like attribution/credit for creating them, please leave a comment below, and I’ll sort it out asap.]

Is there anything more that Guido Barilla could do to smooth out the ripples in his lasagne sheets?
Hmmmm… he might want to follow the recent example of the CEO of an organisation with an even more conservative standing than his own, which manages to maintain a consumer base of around 1.2 billion, by issuing the following statement: “If a person is gay and seeks Go(o)d pasta and has good will hard cash, who am I to judge?”

Hilarious Headlines – August/September 2013

On my weekly perusal of the food industry news, I come across some funny bone tickling stuff. Let’s get straight to it.

‘Sieg Heil’ Hitler Wine Label Sparks New Nazi Row In Italy (08 August 2013, Foodanddrinkeurope.com)

The H-word never gets old, does it…?!

Apparently, there's a whole selection of "historical greats" to choose from... poor Che and Karl, they aren't exactly in the most delightful of company :(

There’s a whole selection of bottled historical greats to choose from. Poor Karl and Che, I don’t think they’re enjoying the company at all! Oh well, at least they’re way over on the left.

US Man Bathes in 300+ Cans of ‘poppling’ Pepsi Max (12 August 2013, http://www.beveragedaily.com)

Certainly looks like it’s doing *something* for him. Hey, isn’t there some urban myth that cola dissolves meat…? This may well be the last time he’s had fun in the bathroom by himself…

Machinery Firm Says Japan is 15 Years Ahead in Cake Innovation (20 Aug 2013, bakeryandsnacks.com)

Let’s be very clear about this: Japan has no bloody clue about cake! Japanese kitchens do not even have ovens. Well, in recent years, they have started to make an appearance, but Japan has even less of a baking tradition than Spain. And that’s saying something. (Something terrible, as far as I’m concerned.)

This is what a traditional Japanese cake looks like:

You see what I mean?! Two pancakes stuck together with something horrible like red bean paste or whatever.

Dorayaki Cake. See what I mean?! Two pancakes stuck together with something heinous like red bean paste. Yeuch!

Vietnamese Authorities Unclear: Is an Orange a Citrus Fruit? (21 Aug 2013, freshplaza.com)

OK, I take that back. The cluelessness crown is to go to Vietnam. Sorry, Japan!

A clear case o identity crisis

A clear case of an orange going through an identity crisis

Brazil Pig Quotes Increase (23 September 2013, themeatsite.com)

The caption below the headline read as follows: “Brazil – In the first fortnight of September, hog quotes resumed increasing, affected mainly by the low volume of slaughter-ready animals”

So, instead of trotting off to the slaughter house like good little piggies, they are enrolling in poetry slams now? Watch out, Oscar Wilde, these Brazilian squealers are going to rhyme rings round you before too long…!

Out of the mouth of babes...

Out of the snout of Babes…

[To view the previous Hilarious Headline post, click here]

Who Eats The Most Butter? And The Most Cream?

Aaahh butter… and cream! So right and so wrong all at the same time…

Growing up in Germany, I was reared on liberal lashings of both. Two kinds of butter enjoyed permanent residency in our fridge: ‘sweet cream’ butter and lactic butter (made from sour cream).

butterbrotOven-fresh sourdough bread, crust still crispy, slathered with a lavish layer of butter… what could be more delicious?! Unless you’re my dad, who liked to cut himself half-inch thick slices of butter,  and eat them without bread.

But those blissful days just couldn’t last forever. In the early 90’s, I moved to the UK, where I encountered the sacrilege that is salted butter. The salt, I’m convinced, was meant to disguise the fact that it was half rancid.

A baffling phenomenon, especially as I remembered my Dad often buying Irish butter in Germany, and that tasted great. I was at a total loss to understand the UK butter debacle. Right next door, there was good butter (ditto across the Channel in France), and English people were putting up with candle wax dragged through sweaty armpits?

From the 2000’s onwards, thank God, the islanders started to see the light, and a better selection of unadulterated varieties started appearing on UK supermarket shelves.


Scone topped with jam and clotted cream – heaven!

Moving onto cream. Well, on my planet, ice cream and cakes were not considered complete without a tower of sumptuous whipped cream artfully erected on top. In the UK, they would just pour it, unwhipped, over their desserts. Fine, I could live with that. Despite their beastly botched butter, they had some pretty good cream, including this most marvellous of concoctions called clotted cream. It tastes like a mixture of butter and cream, and it’s way more delicious than that description makes it sound.

But then… about a decade ago, it all started to go horribly wrong. ‘Cream’ dispensed from spray cans took over in UK restaurants and cafes. Now, what’s in those cans is not cream, but some aerated type of white sludge, emulsified within an inch of its life. (Is it even still dairy?!) Within three minutes of hitting the plate, it melts into an insipid puddle that looks like cum. They serve this aberration in Spain as well. Sigh.

To my great relief, when I was back in Germany this summer, I found that ice cream and cake were still accompanied with what I recognise as the ‘real stuff’ – dense-textured, full-bodied creeeeeeeamy cream, whisked into a shape that holds up in all weathers as it slowly glides from your spoon down your throat and directly into your arteries.

So, who does indulge the most*?
The world’s top butter consumer is Denmark with 5.7kg per capita in 2013, followed – oh yes! – by Germany with 4.9kg. Here’s the rest of the top ten: Finland, Austria, Belarus, Azerbaijan (really??), France, Switzerland, Czech Republic and Georgia.

The UK is in 16th place with 2.5kg, and the US is even further down with 2.0kg. Spain managed a paltry 0.4kg. (Spanish butter, by the way, is awful.) New Zealand’s butter consumption (2.6 kg) is double that of Australia’s.

On the cream front, Sweden leads, slurping and spooning down 11.1kg in 2013 per capita, followed by Belarus with 10.3kg. In third place, we have Canada, with 9.1kg, which, curiously, is far ahead of the US’s 4.0kg. Can anyone explain this…? Next in line are Denmark, Germany, Latvia, Finland, Norway, Estonia and Lithuania. The UK and Spain trail far behind with just 1.7kg and 1.2kg, respectively.

Well, people, butter or cream or both?! Go on, spill all your dark, delicious dairy fat indulgence secrets…

[*For data source, click here]

Who Eats The Most Mayonnaise, Ketchup, Mustard?

Mayo, ketchup, mustard – they all have their place. Sometimes they can be found in amiable unison, lubricating the innards of a nice juicy burger in fairly equal measures, but the uptake of these condiments shows considerable variation around the globe.

Personally, I’m not overly keen on mayonnaise – give me sour cream instead any day – but it is a popular condiment in Germany, where liberal lashings of it are added to potato salad, for example.  Germany is also infamous for ‘Pommes mit Mayo’ (Chips/fries with mayonnaise). It’s at least as popular, if not more so, than the ketchup alternative.  You can get Pommes mit Mayo from any burger van, unstylishly served in either a paper cone or a cardboard tray.

The "Mayo Potato" pizza, offered by Domino's in Japan, alongside the Avocado Shrimp and Giant Quattro, also liberally doused in the stuff

The “Mayo Potato” pizza, offered by Domino’s in Japan, alongside the mayo-laden Avocado Shrimp and Giant Quattro

As for who eats the most mayonnaise, if anyone had asked me before checking*, I’d have plonked for the Japanese being the highest per capita consumers. I’ve seen them deploy this condiment, seemingly without any scruples, on most types of food, and especially on those that are not traditionally Japanese.

But I was wrong. Japan is 20th down the list! It’s the Russians who are the true kings of mayo, clogging up their arteries with 5.1 kg of the stuff in 2013 per capita. Japan managed a comparatively humble 1.5kg, the UK just a smidgen more with 1.6kg, while Germany is quite a long way down with just 1.0 kg, less than half of Dutch consumption levels.

Across the Atlantic, 1.9kg are set to slide down Canadian and US consumers’ gullets this year. Australians and New Zealanders won’t even hit the 1kg mark.

So, led by Russia, the top ten of mayo loving nations is dominated by Eastern European nations in the following order: Lithuania, Ukraine, Belarus, Belgium, Estonia, Latvia, Chile, Netherlands, Poland.

In case anyone’s wondering, the world’s leading mayo brand is Hellmann’s (by Unilever), followed by Kraft.

In the Ketchup stakes, Canada leads with 3.1kg per head, followed by Finland (3kg), Sweden (2.7kg), the UK (2.4kg), Norway (2.3kg), Austria and the US (both 2.2kg). Russians aren’t nearly as fond of ketchup as they are of mayonnaise, squirting just 1.4kg onto their bangers. And yes, of course Heinz is the world’s leading brand, who else?! Second in line, though, is Kagome, a Japanese brand, which I hadn’t expected. Must be big in the Asia Pacific region.

Händlmaier's - Germany's most popular sweet mustard brand

Händlmaier’s – Germany’s most popular sweet mustard brand

As for mustard, Slovakia sports the most enthusiastic uptake with 1.6kg per capita in 2013. The Czech Republic is in second place (1.2kg), and France ranks third (1.0 kg). At least Germany features in the top ten. We do love our mustard, and we have tons of different regional varieties. A very sweet type of  mustard (as sweet as chutney), for example, is served with several traditional meat products and sausages, including the famous Weisswurst.

Weisswurst with mustard - A Bavarian classic. Which I don't really like :(

Weisswurst with mustard – A Bavarian classic. Which I don’t really appreciate 😦

Are you more of a mayo, a mustard or a ketchup person? Are there any weird food combos featuring any of these in your country or region? I’d so love to hear about that!

[*For data source, click here]

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Which Countries Eat The Most Cheese?

Ooooooooooh, CHEESE…! I must confess, I have a predilection for the stinkier incarnations. Although, I don’t care all that much for blue cheeses, I find them a tad too acidy (though good for cooking, e.g. crumbled into in soups), it’s the medium-soft kinds, those that get really runny as they mature, which send me right up to heaven.

Unfortunately, they tend to turn into a bio hazard in the fridge, and leaving these feisty breeds festering on the kitchen counter in the quest for perfect ripeness will inevitably lead to an emergency evacuation of the entire apartment building…

So, which are the most cheese-loving countries?

Spearheading the cheese consumption league table is France with 17.2kg per capita in 2012. Not a big surprise, I grant you, but I did not expect the three runners up to be Scandinavian countries, namely Finland, Norway and Sweden, with around 16kg per head. Next in line are a more predictable round of suspects, i.e. Belgium, Switzerland, Greece and Italy.

I was expecting the Netherlands to be among the top five (probably because the German term of disparagement reserved for the Dutch is “cheeseheads”), but they are in ninth place with 14.5kg, not that far ahead of the Germans’ 12.3kg.

The US nibbled its way through (a most likely totally bland-tasting) 11.2kg, while Australia managed 10kg, Canada 9.6kg, and the UK 8.3kg.

Eastern Europe, for some reason that I can’t figure out, is all over the place. Bulgaria impresses with an appreciable 13.8kg, but neighbouring Romania made do with an abstemious 1.8kg. Totally baffling! Russia was in the middle with 5.4kg.

Many countries, especially those in the Asia Pacific region, do not have a culinary tradition that includes dairy products, and this means no cheese. Hence, sales of cheese in countries like China and Japan remain marginal. And who can blame them – rotten milk is somewhat of an acquired taste…

So,  what’s your favourite kind of cheese?

[For data source, click here]

Which Nation Drinks The Most Beer?

I’m a bit of a late starter when it comes to some of life’s pleasures. Take coffee – I didn’t come to appreciate that until I moved from an unmentionable UK backwater pit to London, aged 29, to start university (yes, a late starter on all fronts!).

So, beer is the latest thing I’m cultivating a liking for. I’ve previously been ambivalent about the golden brew, it’s not something I’d habitually order as a stand-alone drink or with a meal. My move to Spain has changed this, because here they serve you a “caña”, which is a small, very manageable, 250ml glass of beer.

In Germany, the default order is a “Mass”, which is a full litre, or a “Halbe”, i.e. half a litre. They will bring you a smaller glass if you ask very nicely and don’t mind a patronising frown to go with it. In the UK, the standard serving size is a pint, which is a smidgen over half a litre.

And although I’ve been known to devour an entire packet of biscuits in one sitting, as well as a 400g Toblerone bar without ill effects, I don’t seen to have been endowed with a plumbing system extensive enough to accommodate a ‘normal’ sized serving of beer.

Well, thank you Spain for returning me to the bedrock of my Bavarian heritage. Maybe I can work up to the required capacity from here.

Munich brewery sign, pic taken in Munich town centre

Ornate sign on an old brewery house in the centre of Munich

So, who drinks the most beer?

I do have an answer to this question, and no, it’s not the Germans, but the citizens of the Czech Republic by virtue of each of them guzzling 144.1 litres in 2012 (the global per capita average being 27.8 litres), and THEN come the Germans with 106.5 litres, which is a fair bit less.

Ireland is close behind Germany in third place downing 104.7 litres, followed by Austria, Estonia and Poland, all with around 100 litres per annum per head.

And while beer consumption is still rising on a global level, it is actually diminishing in the countries where consumption is currently highest, including the five leading markets I’ve just listed. (Poland’s is still on the way up.)

In the UK, too, beer intake is plummeting. In 2007, per capita consumption stood at 90.4 litres, while by 2012, this had dwindled to 71.8 litres. The US, over the same five-year period, registered a decline from 81.8 to 75.9 litres.

A few countries surprised me with their low consumption rates. No, not Iran or Algeria, you’d expect those to be way below 10 litres per head (and it is), but France mustering a mere 29.2 litres and Italy 27? What’s going on there….? Wine is to blame, I guess… but that’s another post 🙂

A shop in Munich town centre selling beer mugs. The English word for those, I suppose, is “beer steins”, which sounds German (“stein” means stone), but I’ve never heard a German person use this term. To us, it’s a Bierkrug. “Krug” means jug.

[For data source, click here]