Taste the Difference – How Branded Products Vary in Quality
If you bought a jar of Nutella in London and you bought the same branded jar of Nutella in Prague you would think that they would be the same right? Wrong. A topic that first raised it’s head in Czech in 2015 is in the headlines again. Namely, branded food being sold into Central and Eastern European markets with lower quality ingredients. I’m going to use the word “Visegrad” from now on. Visegrad is a 4-country block made up of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland.
If you thought that branded products are the same wherever you go in Europe then be prepared for some differences when you pass into former Warsaw Pact countries (the Visegrad block). Manufacturers have long argued that they are obliged to change the recipe for a product so that it fits the “local tastes” of that country. What are we talking about here? maybe chocolate that’s not quite as sweet? or coffee not quite as strong? Less than 4 months ago (December 2016) the Slovakian Agriculture Ministry carried out tests on 22 different food products being sold in both Slovakia and Austria and concluded that:
Up to one half of the products contained differences that significantly impact their quality and were mainly, with respect to the products sold in Slovakia, a lower proportion of meat, a higher proportion of fats, more artificial sweeteners and preservatives and a lower weight in grams. They also went as far as to say that certain products sold had a different colour, taste, appearance and texture.
The one ingredient not mentioned was “Profit Margin”. Quite simply the Visegrad area has a lower disposable income than the west so products are altered to maintain a suitable profit.
It’s been known for years that people living close to the Austrian or German border have gotten used to making foreign “food trips” to buy exactly the same product because it “tastes better”. It’s no secret that the Visegrad food prices are lower than those in Western European countries but the perception is that “local tastes” is just another way of selling low quality goods and people here have had enough.
The EU Commission must have been truly shocked at this revelation!! Unfortunately not. The EU system is based around maintaining safety rather than quality. A company can do whatever it wants so long as nobody dies. Maybe nothing will change until the EU realises that “made for former Eastern-bloc countries” is just another form of racism.
Or maybe one day over breakfast in Brussels somebody may say “this Nutella doesn’t taste right”………
Based on the original article at EURACTIV. https://www.euractiv.com/section/agriculture-food/news/visegrad-readies-attack-against-double-standards-for-food/
Photo Credit: Euractiv/Reuters