The Business of Poverty and Food Companies
Food companies in industrial countries are registering almost no economic growth. Large multinationals, such as Nestle and Unilever, started to look for a fix. The fix they found, by targeting threshold and developing countries, like Brazil and Kenya.
The conglomerates are having success as they are making big bucks, yet, this comes at the expense of people’s health. They promise healthy branded quality food for everyone, but what they mainly sell are convenience products with low nutritional value with lot’s of salt and sugar. The result? An increase in diseases such as obesity and diabetes, in societies that are already burdened by poverty and malnutrition.
Convenience foods made in Europe are considered a status symbol in many threshold and developing countries. Multinational corporations In Brazil and Kenya are cashing in on this image by targeting the poor with their advertising campaigns. In Kenya they even tailored their product range to so-called PPP or “Popularly Positioned Products”. These are band name products in small packages which are sold for just a few cents. Women from the slums are trained to distribute the products in their private social circles. These jobs are highly sought-after and there’s no shortage of women, most of them unskilled, who are very keen to work for these international food companies.
Ow but don’t worry, the companies are not there just to make money! They like to portray themselves as taking social responsibility on in areas where the state does not. While in Kenya almost half the population lives on less than two euros a day and while Brazil count forty-two million poor, many are climbing towards the lowest rung of the middle class. The combination of the two results in health problems for this group as rates of obesity and diabetes are rapidly increasing. Critics like Dr. Carlos Monteiro, Professor of Nutrition and Health at the University of São Paulo, say that’s a total contradiction:
The companies are distributing unhealthy products en masse to the people while at the same time presenting themselves as benefactors: “Greenwashing” at the expense of the poorest in society.