Same Product & Brand, Different Quality?

Hi everyone,

Just came across an article about how some Eastern Europe folk had been complaining that Nutella tastes different (inferior even) in their countries, when comparing those products to the same in Germany or Italy.

Anyone think this potential issue also exists within the confines of one country, say between poorer and richer states/provinces? Economies of scale would be affected, some might argue, but there bottling/manufacturing plants in different places in the same country.

If Mexican Coca-Cola is all about the cane sugar, why can’t southern states also prefer that stuff (and have it produced thus)? Does a cuppa Tim Horton’s in Toronto have a divergent flavor profile than one in Yellowknife?

/End of bloviation.

Nevertheless, curious about your collective thoughts.

FFF

Your link to the 2017 article is something of an “old news is new news” one. As it points out, manufacturers tweak their product’s recipe towards the perceived tastes of the country (or, as suggested, make an inferior product for some places).

But you pose the interesting question of whether the same does (or could) apply between regions of a single country. To which I suppose the answer is that it depends on whether it would be profitable to the manufacturer to do that. Seems to me only a possibility in very large countries, by way of geography and population, where regional differences could be identified and a marketing strategy developed.

“NEW FOR 2023… BRAND X…NOW WITH ADDED GLOOP… JUST THE WAY YOU LIKE IT”

OK, I’d never have been successful in a career in marketing or advertising.

It could only work in the mega large countries - the likes of China, India, USA, Indonesia. And then, only regional differences could be identified and marketed.

There won’t be such regional differences in smaller countries, like mine. I live on this small island off the coast of Europe with none of us living more than 70 miles from the coast.

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Agree with @Sunshine842 that this is driven by many different factors, and not always just a bunch of villans twirling their mustachios trying to figure out how to stick it to a local region. Financials - and looking for cheaper ingredients always is in the picture, but there are times when this is the right move and time when it is not. I have read that given the logistics and economic issues we’ve faced the last two years - some pandemic driven, regional conflict driven, etc. - more companies than ever and looking at their product formulations and making adjustments.

There is a cultural aspect to this for sure. I buy Ovaltine exclusively from local Asian markets. The US version tastes different, and they also offer a strange chocolate flavor in the US. Apparently US kids won’t drink malt, but will gladly drink chocolate flavored anything. Soy milk has been around Asia for ages, and it’s a simple straight up soy drink. In the US, it needs to be “flavored” with vanilla. They do sell unflavored versions, but I’ve heard so many people complain that it tastes like soy. My unkind thought is “Duh… it’s soy milk.” Since it’s marketed primarily as a milk alternative, there’s an expectation that it taste like cow’s milk. Chinese people I know of will lament any soy beverage where you can’t taste the soy because they consider it an inferior over-diluted product.

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I have no background in the food/beverage industry, so I’m just positing some random thoughts here–

  1. As an example, Coca-Cola has bottling plants throughout the U.S. Couldn’t one/all of those be tweaked for a regional market, just as there’s a Coca-Cola with cane sugar in some other countries?

  2. You mentioned “local laws and regulations/local market preferences.” I tend to think municipalities with extant food deserts would throw subsidies/tax bennies towards a Dollar General or Aldi, just so that they’d build. That a Dollar General isn’t the place to go for healthy/locally lawfully-sold food thus becomes irrelevant, no?

  3. And the C-suite doesn’t have to make up reasons to sell inferior products because it’s not as if this is such a pressing issue, in the grand scheme of things. To borrow Europe’s example, Nutella is a luxury good, unless you’re a Nutella store/manufacturer.

Indeed, perhaps it was due to supply chain issues that arose from the pandemic that some companies started to reduce the quantity of more expensive ingredients so as to rush things to shelves. Perhaps they just did that for a specific region of the country, where they have lower market penetration/less-convinced demographics.

I dont work in the food industry, either, but ive worked in manufacturing most of my lide.

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Could work, and IS WORKING. There are several ‘single product, two labels’ examples here in the states. The easiest to come to mind is Best Foods / Hellman’s Mayonnaise split. Roughly speaking, the eastern half of the country gets a mayonnaise called Hellman’s, and the western half gets Best Foods. There IS, supposedly, a slight differentiation in their formulas, though I’ve never tasted them straight side by side to verify empirically. Supposedly, Best Foods is ‘slightly tangier’. There’s a similar ‘two labels, one product’ with Dryer’s / Edy’s icecream, though as far as I know, the products in that instance are identical.

I seem to recall that Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise has a couple of different formulations, depending on what country it was manufactured in.

No, I don’t know why I seem to have concentrated on mayonnaise based examples.

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And Nutella pretty famously varies its formula by country.

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No, actually, post was not deleted by author.

Here it is:

Various formulas change mostly because of any or all of these:

  • Raw material availability in different locations
  • Local laws and regulations
  • Local market preferences (this includes price, flavor, consistency, etc)
  • Local market conditions…things like climate and seasonal temperatures affect manufacturing processes

If the local market pricing won’t support the cost structure of a higher cost formula, the company either doesnt sell much or looks at a way to make their cost basis meet local conditions

I’m sure it happens, but most companies don’t sit around making up reasons to intentionally sell crap products into a given market. They’re apending that time trying to figure how to maximise profits and market share.

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I think the title to this post is a bit misleading.

Same Product & Brand, Different Quality?

While there may be variations amongst different regions (either between countries or even within countries), those variations do not generally result in different quality of product.

Different taste profile? Sure.

But quality? No.

For example, in the case of Best Foods and Hellmann’s mayo no one is really suggesting that one mayo is somehow better qualitatively than the other, merely that the ingredients might be slightly different

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Yeah. What you said. To @FindingFoodFluency 's point, though, I’ve lived ‘abroad’ (well, Canada, NZ, Aus) and can tell you that ‘Nacho Cheese Doritos’ in Canada DO, in fact, taste slightly different than the USAian ones. But again, that’s not saying they’re better or worse, just different.

For YEARS getting imported Canadian (or UK) chocolate was a thing in the states, because major US brands used the minimum amount of coco solids and added other fat (palm oil, mostly). I remember a big ol kerfuffle we could hear on this side of the Atlantic when Cadbury UK supposedly changed its formula and folks were quite cross, indeed.

Funnily enough it was around then (I think?) that those purple Cadbury packages began to show up on US grocery store shelves. So maybe it was a matter of being finally allowed to reach the ‘lower standards’ of US chocolate bars made it profitable for them to produce locally.

Or maybe this is reflective of the fact that chocolate malt is a dessert classic here?

One that’s increasingly hard to find. I can find it only at the Ye Olde Tyme Iced Cream Saloon places (or the ones that are genuinely that old), or the RARE diner/drive-in. Usually either a genuine pre-50’s joint or a concious modern throwback.

That’s why the question was posed as such.

I was curious to know if a difference in product quality did exist, even within the same country. Basically, the Nutella thing, but entirely within one country.

Would you pay the same for a Hellman’s mayonnaise if the ingredients – and/or proportions of ingredients – were different?

That’s where Coca Cola also interests me. One can find a “U.S.” and a “Mexican” version in the same city, so those are easy to compare. But that’s not a common occurrence (on the flip side, are there any Jarritos plants in the U.S.?)

How about Whoppers? :laughing:

First you have to very clearly specify what “quality difference” means, and how one might measure that.

Might they taste different or have some other sensory difference? Sure.

But other than health and safety issues (which are regulated) i highly doubt that quality (whatever that means) is going to be measurably different

The difference between US and Mexican Coke is the difference between HFCS and cane sugar. Most Coca Cola produced outside of the US is made with cane sugar, so the same argument could be made for any of those, too.

Unlike their commonwealth cousins, ‘Maltesers’, I almost never hear about Whoppers (or Milk Duds). I know they still produce them but do they have any traction with ‘the youth’ these days?

The only small children I know these days are super picky ‘plain m&m’s only’ types so I have no inkling on current candy trends.

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I think they mostly end up in Halloween mixes. My kiddo likes a malt but that’s mostly because it’s sweet on sweet. :sweat_smile:

Differences in ingredients does not necessarily equate to difference in quality.

Simply having different ratios of salt and sugar (Hellman’s v. Best Foods) or different types of sweetener (pure cane v. HFCS) does not mean that one product is better, from a purely objective perspective, than the other.

If say, Hellman’s mayo used Heritage breed Pasture -raised eggs raised eggs and Best Food’s used conventional eggs than one might say Hellman’s is qualitatively better from an objective perspective. But that isn’t the case, at least not with any products that I know of.

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