There are products that customers trust to taste the same all over the world. Coca-Cola, Nutella, Danone yoghurts for example. Consumers also expect global products from global food companies. But is it really like that? And then why does Nutella taste more chocolate in Germany than in Poland or Hungary?
In Eastern Europe, consumers have been getting cheap versions of branded products for years. The EU Commission in Brussels repeatedly points out the inequality of food quality. We are talking about the “double standard” – a two-class system in which the companies sell the higher quality products in the western EU countries, the eastern countries get the lower quality goods.
Lenor: Less content for more money
With 58 percent fish sticks of the Iglo brand, the proportion of fish in Slovakia was seven percent lower than in neighboring Austria. Slovaks paid 30 cents more for a bottle of Lenor laundry detergent than the Austrians, but at the same time received 60 milliliters less. And in Hungary the percentage of cocoa in Nutella is 7.4 percent, 1.1 percent lower than in Germany, as reported by the news magazine “Spiegel”.
Chocolate cream, detergent and fish fingers became a political issue half a year ago. Many Eastern European heads of government are outraged by the practices: Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico delivered an angry speech in Bratislava in July, while Hungary’s Victor Orbán described the east-west divide as “one of the greatest scandals in the recent past”. A Polish newspaper wrote about “food racism”.
Read also: This picture frightens the Internet: This is behind the mysterious number on the Nutella glass
At the end of September 2017, the EU Commission published a package of guidelines regarding the “Double Standard”. On the one hand, the purpose is to make it easier for national bodies to decide whether a company that sells products of two different qualities violates EU law. On the other hand, the guidelines for marketing should make it more transparent for consumers.
“Activia”: Mock pack from Danone
In Brussels, under the guidance of EU Justice Commissioner Věra Jourová, a research team is now being set up to develop uniform rules. How consumer-oriented and independent this works is questionable. As the “Spiegel” reports further, companies and lobby associations of the industry have queued at Jourová in the past weeks.
The companies work with clever practices: They submit studies according to which different recipes are substantiated by alleged regional preferences of consumers. This reasoning is necessary in order not to have to answer for unfair trading practices.
It is not least about somehow scientifically substantiating stereotypes and clichés. Statements such as that, in the east, oily fish is “just in demand” would first have to be proven.
With other products, however, the situation is clear: less fruit content, more artificial flavors, additional thickener. They are clear mock packs. They are distributed by Danone and are called “Activia”.