Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ode to a Cheerio, deception and awakening.

I think that at times people that deceive others on a regular basis have no concept of what they do and how it affects the real world, and people in it.  Let’s take a look at that.  It makes more sense when we look at real world examples, ones that shows so well just how insulated from reality leaders of agribusinesses actually are.  First, I am talking about Cheerios.  Yep, hard to believe, but those little round “O’s “ that virtually every parent has used to help their child develop eye hand coordination, are in fact not the cute little wholesome and nutritious morsels that the bigwigs at General Mills believe, or perhaps, want us to believe.  The real world eye awakening took place at the beginning of December when General Mills set up a Facebook page in the hopes that millions of consumers would go to the site and log their own personal thoughts about how wonderful Cheerios have been for them personally.   The whole deal sort of backfired when less than forty-eight hours of the Facebook app going live to take comments and for consumers to draw their favorite little sayings using the Cheerios background; there appeared, totally unexpected by management, over a hundred thousand complaints about General Mills use of Genetically Modified products in the manufacture of Cheerios.  And many were just out and out condemnation of General Mills for the company stand on defeating the California law that would require labeling of all Genetically Modified foods.  Forty-eight hours.  Over one hundred thousand complaints.  Wow.  I think that was a shock to management. 
But then what do you do when you know that you are deceiving your customers, you know the products that the company that you are leader of are not what you purport them to be?  How do you justify looking in the mirror every morning when the products that you make are PACKED with sugar, which is made from Genetically Modified sugar beets, corn starch, which again, is all Genetically Modified, and neither of which can in any way be considered part of a healthy diet for children.  Again, money makes any possible guilt invisible.  Cheerios is and has been a staple in American households for generations.  The company bigwigs must still believe that their place is sacrosanct, unassailable.  How wrong they are finding that to be.  I don’t know how many boxes of the stuff they sell annually, but I bet their market share is dropping.  That is why they began this campaign on the internet.  To get public opinion supporting their products, and capitalize on it.  
Looks can be deceiving, the makers of 7up have found that out.  They make fruit flavored 7ups.  However the Center for Science in the Public Interest has taken exception to the labels that 7up puts on the bottles of the fruit flavored 7up.  The labels actually show pictures of little fruits prominently displayed there on the label, with the assumption of the consumer that there might actually be fruit in the stuff.  I mean why else would they have pictures of fruit there. The Center sued 7up.  And won.  Beginning in February, all new artificially fruit flavored 7up's will not have pictures of real fruit.  The company stated that they complied with all labeling guidelines when those labels were designed, the ingredients were listed on the back, and there was no mention of fruit, real or otherwise.  So were the FDA guidelines too open, or did the company interpret them in a way that was sort of deceptive?  Again, I am not sure how the head honchos at 7up can look in the mirror every morning.  It is scary indeed that people with power look the other way when making money is concerned.  

Let's take a look at a small scale example, my ex wife.  My ex has no scruples at all.  And back in 08 when we decided to no longer be a married couple, she offered to buy the Pasta Business from me.  Ok, I was fine with that.  At that time we had been buying pasta from a guy in Tempe Arizona shipping it to Austin and putting our own labels on it.  Not illegal, in fact it is called co-packing.  Actually a big part of the food industry.  Who do you think makes the off brand Cheerios in the bags on the bottom shelf of the cereal aisle?  Well General Mills does, usually with the same or close to the same ingredients.  Packed for the generic market.  Same principal.  However, when at court for the divorce, the ex told me she didn't feel like she should pay me anything for the resale business, and so told the judge the business was of no value and didn't have to pay me.  I'm not a dummy, I told the judge it had value and offered to buy it from her.  The judge was pleased, I was pleased, the ex, was not.  I bought all new equipment to manufacture my own brand of pasta and did so quite successfully for several years.  In the meantime, the ex needed to sell pasta and sought other packers.  There is a company in Ohio that makes an okay product.  They just use eggs and powdered vegetables.  The ex started to buy their product, slapped her labels on them and never once thought to add eggs to the ingredients.  And in an effort to try to outsell me, (we did some of the same events) she would then tell customers that she used to own my business, but wanted to make a better product and now made her pasta with all organic ingredients.  How can she look herself in the mirror when everything you do is an out and out attempt to deceive the consumers?

I don't know the answers, I mean really, how can I, a humble old man with integrity ever begin to understand how the quest for ever more money makes a person do things that are questionably legal, honest or even wholesome?  It is beyond me, my mind doesn't work that way. 

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