University of Birmingham: From blowfish to biscuits, global marketers’ techniques are revealed

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From toxic Japanese blowfish and Norwegian sheep’s head to Italian breakfast biscuits and Middle Eastern hummus, experts have created a new way of classifying how foods are marketed around the world.

‘Transcultural food marketing’ takes into account the origin and cultural appeal of foods, organising brands and cuisines into a range of categories such as ‘scary and strange’, ‘treat or threat’ or ‘routine simplicity’.

An international team of researchers analysed over 30 years of research insights to create a new understanding of how growers and producers, wholesalers and retailers, chefs and marketers engage with cultural diversity.

Transcultural food marketing creates a new understanding of how marketers curate these relationships to boost sales of their products. They can choose to emphasise products’ geographical ties or explore feelings of comfort or danger associated with the food.
Pilar Rojas Gaviria, University of Birmingham
Publishing their findings in Journal of Business Research, researchers, from the University of Birmingham, Monash University, Australia, and Universidad del Desarrollo, Chile, pitch a range of foods on two related scales: ‘Territorialisation to Deterritorialisation’ and ‘Familiarity to Exploration’.

The former considers how strongly a food’s geographical origin influences its marketing – for example champagne or Kobe beef, whilst the latter factors familiarity, or lack of – for example curry or molecular gastronomy.

Co-author Pilar Rojas Gaviria, from the University of Birmingham, commented: “Food products’ relationship to place can combine ethnic, national, and global cultures to shape the consumer’s experience in very different ways.

“Transcultural food marketing creates a new understanding of how marketers curate these relationships to boost sales of their products. They can choose to emphasise products’ geographical ties or explore feelings of comfort or danger associated with the food.”

In deciding how to market a food’s origin, marketers face a dilemma – do they anchor a product to a specific place (eg. champagne) or do they draw on a wider cultural association to broaden its appeal (eg. Tiger beer).

When translating foods across cultures, marketers must balance familiarity, which could give a product broader public appeal (eg. McDonalds), with exploration, which could draw consumers through a sense of novelty and adventure (eg. Smalahove – salted, smoked and cooked sheep’s head).

The researchers used a range of global foods and cuisines, including Mulino Blanco biscuits, Starbucks Coffee, Inca Kola and Nikkei Cuisine, to illustrate the new framework.

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