February 11, 2011

Branding, Consumption and the environment

Can branding and the environment go together? At the face of it, I don’t think they do. Think about the food choices that we have these days. Over here, we are spoilt for choice. Any kind of food is up for grabs in any season, in any form, in any place that we choose to have it from. Heavily processed and elaborately packaged. With at least 10 chemicals added to it. Multiple brands to choose from. Each promoted through various means.

Coming to think of it, I wonder if packaging is the actual culprit, and not branding. May be both. The other day I bought some garlic, some potatoes and some onions! Once and for a long time sold as just commodities, today, even they are not spared from branding. And how could I reuse all those packaging? It adds a great deal of convenience to the shopper and to the seller as well. Merchandise looks glamorous. Even the routine garlic and onions! Berries from Chile. They were so fresh and supple. My one year old didn’t spare any for us. But the agony it gave me was terrible. Looking at the perforated plastic zip lock in which it came to me, I was at my wits’ end.

Croaker. Never frozen. Could be from the neighbouring lake. But, guess what it came in? In a big zip lock! So easy to carry it home – no fear of fish stench leaking into the other purchase. Happy better half who bought it home intact. I took the fish out and then threw the zip pouch out for fear of the fish stench lingering in my kitchen. The details are quite disgusting, but the zip lock smelled so fishy that there was no way I could reuse it. And why break my head over reusing this particular zip lock; many more would find their way into my kitchen soon.

The ready to eat category is quite evolved in this part of the world. I remember having many meetings with a category player in Bangalore who had just ventured into the business. Unable to cope with the grossly under-developed freezer chain in Bangalore/ India, they couldn’t expand their business. We felt sad that we couldn’t partner them in their branding endeavors either. But, looking back, I must feel happy that they did not. Even Reliance had plans to venture big time into the ready-to-eat category. Red-tape or accusations of political favouritism, they couldn’t either. Knowing Reliance, they will soon because there is a huge market out there. But, at least a few years got spared in the mean time.

Talk about Food and Enviorment; one can go on and on. Food – if not local, has to be packaged with a great amount of care, has to undergo lot of processing, has to be shipped, transported from across continents, countries, counties to reach us here and now. Here and now is the guiding force these days. We want everything right here, right now. We are willing to pay any price for it. Little do we realize that our children will pay a huge price for it as they are stepping into a trembling planet with a lopsided eco-system. Is that what we want to leave behind? Just as we urge companies to be guided by the morality of profit, can we be guided by the morality of consumption?

Morality of Consumption.
I earnestly hope it becomes a buzz word, a moot point for introspection and action.


€mmanuel said...

Morality of consumption - quite a challenge I must say!

geetha said...

Dear Ma'm,
Sorry for taking so long to comment here.what you have written in this post is something i too share. Here in the middle east, anything and everything is imported.. everything we buy comes home wrapped in plastic covers.. thrice a week, i buy milk in plastic cans. same with yoghurt. it leaves me really guilty of my carbon footprint. Sometimes i get wierd looks at the counter (as if asking me which planet i m from) when i deny a plastic cover or when i carry my jute bags to carry groceries home! I try to recycle come of them but still end up adding to the wastage.. Working in media, i have been thinking off late about the ethics of advtg too. I am sure brands, advertisers and media are the biggest culprits here.. we create unwanted demand, resulting in unnecessary consumption and wastage. A manufacturer should be held responsible for his product even after it passes out from the mfg unit. he should think of ways and means to reduce the wastage arising from packaging! There was a recent move here to impose waste tax on companies so that they reduce unwanted packaging.. sound good right?
The plethora of magazines, tabloids, newspapers, leaflets etc that is brought out a day- how many of them are actually read by people? most of them exist because of some greedy guys hunger for money and his space marketing staff... high time print media houses (Big n small) are held responsible for the usage of newsprint for which a poor tree has given up its life!!
Sometimes i feel this whole thing called advtg should be controlled to a great extend so that coonsumption can be under control...
anyway, good post!
keeep writing!
will keep reading
never knew of this facet of yours! Wish i knew abt it earlier. Nice to seee your greenheart!!

anna's musings said...

Thanks Geetha for your comments. They connect well and make sense. Waste Tax- sounds encouraging, but its easier said than done. I believe its lack of will which is the bigger problem. Until people (read manufacturers) feel the need for it, 'minimum packaging' will not become a reality.

I recollect a meeting with a prospective client of mine in ITPL. (Bangalore)After a long presentation, while leaving I handed over a Company Brochure to her. I knew it wasn't required, because we had an indepth face to face meeting. But, for the sake of courtsey (some folks expect such things), I thought I will leave one with her. She politely refused to accept it saying, 'Let me not add to the junk around' She sounded the least derogatory, but just that such printed material only adds to the junk. After this incident, I have also tried not to accept things that I may not need.

Thanks once again, Geetha! Will keep sharing!
I certainly welcome your thoughts- and more so, about green thinking shaping up in your part of the world. Lets use this space to be the change that we wish to see around!

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