Thursday, August 23, 2007

If People Only Knew

When I was a lad I used to accompany my mother to the Key Market in Sprowston for the weekly grocery shop. This was for fresh and tinned only, as frozen food required a separate monthly trip to Bejams and then a mad dash back the 100 yards to the Ford Cortina lest the half hundredweight of deep frozen peas and meat "defrost", but it was still a significant provisioning mission.

Influenced by the pernicious ways of advertising, I would trail the shopping trolley begging my mum to buy me McVities chocolate digestives (here's a picture showing the proper deployment thereof). I was fed up with the manky store brand and wanted- as had been suggested in the advertisments- to like high on the hog like some crumb and chocolate covered scion of the landed gentry. Mum always said no, citing a friend of a friend who worked for McVities who claimed that store brand biscuits were made on the same production line by the same company with the same ingredients.

"Bollocks" I thought each time. I continued to believe that this was just another piece of older relative propaganda (like the time my grandfather told me less bubble bath made for more bubbles) until I saw an educational film on United Biscuits* while in secondary school. The film did indeed confirm that biscuits for UBs various brands and for the brands of its nominal competitors (the supermarket own brands) were run off on the same production lines. Well, bugger me!

This all returned to me this morning over breakfast as I was reading a story on the woes of China's manufacturing industry in The Economist. This passage in particular stood out:

"It would undermine the brands that Adidas, Puma, and Nike have spent so much to promote if their customers knew that a Taiwanese contractor called Yue Yuen produced shoes for all of them in China."

This might be the angle to take. People (sadly) will only have so much empathy for the sweatshop workers and slave laborers who make their footwear (and such ridiculous profit margins for Big Shoe). But tell them that the Nike on their foot is almost identical to the Puma on yours and that you both got scammed and you might be able put a new crack in the lifestyle sales pitch these hucksters rely on.

(*An deep understanding of biscuits and confectionery being a mandatory British educational requirement)


RPS said...

Sprowston was first mentioned (as 'Sprowestuna') in the Domesday Book of 1086. The name is Anglo-Saxon and means 'the settlement belonging to Sprow".

What a fantastic name (like a place Bertie Wooster would live). Obviously, though, the Wiki is wrong. The name must mean "where the prow of our boat ran into the tuna."

Clockwatcher said...

I had been informed that many store brands were indeed manufactured at the same places/same companies as national brands, and vowed to buy on taste alone. McVitties, however, I have to have. I would be willing to try a generic brand, but I have no idea where to find a reasonable substitute in NYC. Oh how I love my chocolate McVitties.

weasel said...

Sprowston casuals, not as well ard as the Plumstead mafia. At least that's how it was relayed to me in 1986. I didn't care, I was from New Catton and had well ard mates of my own from Thorpe.

McVities (or even the generics) are proper biscuits, no messing. In Canada (and by extension specialty stores up here) they are manufactured under license by Carrs.