I like Weetabix. It was introduced to me in my youth, when my British-raised Cypriot-Dutch cousins would have it on the breakfast table in Cyprus.
To a very young Canadian, it was a British cereal. Plain, unassuming, a bit mechanical, and texturally fascinating as the milk mutated the very fabric of the cereal within 10 seconds of pouring.
When I moved to Britain in 1998, I discovered there were multiple varieties of Weetabix-type-cereals. After trying the original and a few store-brands, I settled on Weetabix Organic.
It’s not so much the organic label, but it does taste better than the regular biscuits; naturally sweeter, and less wooden than regular Weetabix.
The British packaging made a big deal of the fact that Weetabix Organic were made from organic Ontario wheat. Even though Canadians would think about Saskatchewan as the ideal province of origin for wheat, British people would be impressed about that big, clean and better-known province that is bigger than European countries, and whose lakes are bigger than European seas.
Interestingly, Weetabix Organic packaging in Canada makes no mention of Ontario. In fact, it doesn’t even mention it’s made in Canada from Canadian wheat. This is a missed opportunity, and also highlights the fact that unlike their counterparts in Britain and Costa Rica, Canadian food standards agencies do not require all food products be labelled with point of origin. I like to know where my food comes from, before I put it in me.
As described in this 2005 Brandchannel article, country of origin is “free” branding. A Guinness made in Dublin tastes a lot better than one made in St Louis. A Guinness made in Dublin and enjoyed there too is strangely more satisfying.
Free branding works when people have positive perceptions about the country of origin’s ability to produce that product. I bought some plain almonds from a discount store the other day, with no country of origin mentioned on the packaging. They didn’t taste like California almonds, that’s for sure. After a little investigation, I found out they come from China, and you can understand the company’s reluctance to mention that. Of course in Canada, they don’t have to mention it… and consumers lose out.