We are very interested in how the food industry — and particularly Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics sponsors Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills, and Kellogg’s — operates in what are commonly referred to as “emerging markets” (AKA: developing nations).
One of these emerging markets is South Africa.
In an illuminating article for the Public Library of Science titled “Big Food, the Consumer Food Environment, Health, and the Policy Response in South Africa,” Dr. Corinna Hawkes — Honorary Research Fellow at the City University of London and current Head of Policy and Public Affairs for World Cancer Research Fund International — and colleagues connect the threads between Big Food strategies to alter the consumer food environment (by making their foods more available, more affordable, and more acceptables) and its effects on public health.
- “In recent years, there has also been an increase in the sales of almost all categories of packaged foods in South Africa (Table 1). For example, sales of snack bars, ready meals, and noodles all rose by more than 40% between 2005 and 2010.”
- “South Africans are also increasing their consumption of soft drinks. Compared with a worldwide average of 89 Coca-Cola products per person per year, in 2010 South Africans consumed 254 Coca-Cola products per person per year, an increase from around 130 in 1992 and 175 in 1997.”
- We use the term “Big Food” as shorthand for large commercial entities—both multinational and national—that increasingly dominate key components of the food and beverage environment. We include companies that have an identity with consumers—manufacturers, retailers, and food outlets—rather than agribusiness and primary processors. Although many authors have written on Big Food in the US, the UK, and other developed nations, much less has been written about their operations and practices in developing countries experiencing significant transitions.
- “We suggest that the South African government should develop a plan to make healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grain cereals more available, affordable, and acceptable, and non-essential, high-calorie, nutrient-poor products, including soft drinks, some packaged foods and snacks, less available, more costly, and less appealing to the South African population. Some of these approaches may require engagement with Big Food. But elsewhere, clear rules and regulations are needed. Discussions about the regulation of promotional activities and about imposing taxes on unhealthy food products would be a good place to start.”