Saturday, March 9, 2013

Pepsico wants Eastern Europeans to eat healthy snacks

by Richard Mellor

Socialists argue that production is not set in to motion by the owners of the means by which we produce things (the bourgeoisie or big capitalists) in order to produce products that human beings need.  This is incidental.  The owners of capital invest in production, invest in the Labor process, in order to make profit no matter what the finished product. When we read their serious journals this becomes very clear.

This is what made me think about this.

Coca Cola’s competitor, Pepsico, bought a giant Russian yogurt manufacturer a couple years ago for $4.2 billion.  All the established western multinationals have been expanding in Asia since the collapse of Stalinism and China’s gradual journey down the road to a market economy. Pepsico wants to bring “Western Style snacking in all its gluttonous glory to Eastern Europeans” writes Bloomberg Business Week.

Pepsico’s CEO, Indra Nooyi, is somewhat of a scrapper in the world of bourgeois culture.  Last year she went on a rampage cutting costs by laying off more than 8000 workers and taking steps that allowed Pepsico to “Regain market share from Coca-Cola” according to BW. This allowed Pepsico to increase profits by 17% in the last quarter of 2012. Another move that helped profits was increasing sales on soft drinks an important and necessary part of a healthy human diet; after all, Pepsico produces food and drink for human consumption.

So Pepsico wants to wean the Eastern Europeans off their terrible habit of making their own food. The company doesn’t want to repeat Campbell Soup’s failed attempt to get Russians to stop making their own traditional soups and buy Campbell’s packaged broths. “Changing behavior is expensive, you can direct it but it’s an evolution”, says one coupon clipper whose job it is to convince people they need to buy certain products they wouldn’t ordinarily buy. Some people just don’t know what’s good for them.

These damn Russians are a bit of a problem though.  Why can’t they be more like Americans?  We are used to being bombarded every day by ads telling us what we should and shouldn’t buy and what we need to be handsome, pretty, liked, and fat. Not to mention how meaningless and empty our lives will be if we ignore this advice.  We know better, we consume $34 billion worth of snacks each year but Eastern Europeans are, “…only now warming up to packaged snacks and on-the-go munching.”

“On the go munching” says it all. It gets worse though. Look at this example of their poor judgment and poor diet.  Instead of some Frito Lays or a healthy General Mills Nature Valley granola bar that their daughter brings home to put in the fridge alongside the Hershey’s Syrup and Heinz Ketchup, the parents of this young woman  “eat what they grew up with: compote juice with fresh apples, cabbage soup made from scratch, or a breakfast of buckwheat porridge.” Now no one is saying they don’t need improvements in their diet that a higher standard of living could bring, but hormone laden meat, sugared drinks and salty crackers aren’t the alternative. But:

“Fresh apples” ha, ha, ha, LOL LOl LOl!

So Pepsico and other multinationals need to get people off this insane idea of making their own food and on to packaged goods and drinkable yogurts and juices that BW refers to as, “value added beverages.”

When I was in Macedonia a few years ago visiting an old friend I ate as I did when I was there 35 years before.  Only then, he was living in a small mountain village where there was one room in the village with a TV in it that people went to watch and they grew most of their own food.  We ate yogurt from cows and fresh veggies.  This time I found him in Gostivar near the Albanian border.  They had more modern conveniences including a big television and a fridge.  As before I ate great food though by our standards they were relatively poor. It was November and we always ate pickled vegetables with our meal. I really liked these treats they pickled themselves.

I remember commenting on them and how delicious they were. “We have a fridge now,” he said, “But we like the flavor at this time of year and we want to preserve the tradition.”
“Preserve the tradition!”
  Ha, ha, ha. LOL,LOL, LOL. You can’t make profit preserving traditions. What’s wrong with these people?

Hold on a minute. If Pepsico was interested in people’s health, if it functions to produce food and beverages, a human need for sure, why would it lay off workers and produce unhealthy foods spending millions of dollars convincing people they were healthy and that they should buy them?

Marx wrote “A schoolmaster is a productive labourer when, in addition to belabouring the heads of his scholars, he works like a horse to enrich the school proprietor. That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of in a sausage factory, does not alter the relation.”

He was making some sense. I’m not sure Pepsico is actually in the business of making food, I mean proper food, but of enriching the investors who own the company.

This situation cannot change as long as such a crucial human need is in private hands and profit driven.  It also cannot change as long as the capital necessary for production is in private hands.  Public ownership of food production and the finance industry under workers and consumers control and management is the only way this can be permanently changed. Much of our food can be produced locally. There is nothing wrong in changing habits, including the collective habits of masses of people. It depends on what forces are changing them and for what purposes. Their reason for snacks and packaged foods lie in their need to have people at work and under their control in the production of profit than in our homes and communities in possession of our own time, governing our own lives and deciding what we will eat and how we shall produce it.

*One of the major reasons we have the war against public services (and jobs) is that workers have forced them through collective struggle to provide them and capitalists also support funding public services when they facilitate private profit. (freeways for example). But the problem with increased public services is that it occupies space in society that could be occupied by private capital; it closes a door of opportunity for profit making.

No comments: