Marion Nestle, Emerging Markets, and Tony the Tiger

New York University professor, author, and nutritionista Marion Nestle held court in a packed Kane Hall this past Wednesday as the third featured speaker in the UW Program on the Environment’s speaker series, “Eating Your Environment.”

Nestle talk, “Food Politics: Advocacy for Social Change,” chronicled the USA’s contemporary food industry, food consumption trends, and food policies. An avid blogger and tweeter (over 36,000 followers and counting), Nestle is one of the most well known voices in this country within the modern discourse on food.

One section of her talk addressed emerging markets and the food industry, which I found particularly resonant given my current MCDM course, “Emerging Markets in Digital Media.” Domestic industry giants pitch a wide range of products to emerging markets—from computer platforms to breakfast cereal. Regardless of what is being sold, the dynamics of access, power, strategic partnerships, marketing, and brand strength all still come into play. When Nestle revealed that the Pediatric Association of Guatemala endorsed Kellogg’s Chocolate Frosted Flakes (“Choco Zucaritas”), you have to wonder who Tony the Tiger paid off.  “Industry goals and health goals are not the same,” Nestle reminded the audience.

Nor are they necessarily the same when it comes to digital media. As emerging markets shift from primarily consumers to the producers of new technology, so too will the dynamic between indigenous and external industries. On the one hand, there are examples of strong partnerships that marry strengths–inside knowledge with established expertise–but the question of what happens when collaborators become potential competitors is one that must be asked.

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