The hunt is on for a Kiwi icon to sell infant formula without being culturally offensive

But is this a good way to sell canned baby formula?

In a follow-up to an item posted here the other day, Alf observes that the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has done things differently from Tariana Turia.

It has investigated a Maori-branded infant formula being exported to China (and Tariana is bound to appreicate that this has been done).

The contents of the cans of baby tucker were given first priority and – we are told – they meet all food safety and export regulations.

MAF now will look at marketing and labelling considerations.

Tariana Turia, our Associate Minister of Health, did things the other way around and made the branding (with Maori imagery) her first concern.

She can chalk this up as a triumph because the company that is peddling this stuff is now looking for a new brand.

Kiaora’s experience will be instructive for other companies that come to this country (as they are bound to do, because of the asset fire sale that is now under way to help us settle our debts).

Nobody gets too excited about foreigners slapping an English word on a product.

But if they use a Maori word, they had better be ready for a fight with our special people, who can be very possessive about Maori words.

They will be bemused when they are chided for their use of such words, because the same Maori people who can be very possessive about the use of their words are pressing the Government for much more use to be made of their language.

Yep. It’s a cultural tightrope we must walk.

Anyway, the Herald today gives us a bit of background to the Auckland-registered company Kiaora New Zealand International and its sales of Heitiki formula to China via the internet.

It also reports on MAF’s findings.

Heitiki’s cans are clearly branded as being from New Zealand and feature a Maori woman on the label.

MAF compliance and enforcement director Geoff Allen said the company had been under investigation for about 10 days.

“The investigation was primarily on whether there was a food safety issue, and I’m pleased to report that no food safety issues were identified,” he said.

“The investigation then moved to other food issues relating to the origin and export destination of the product. Again, nothing untoward was identified.

“The product is manufactured in New Zealand according to the relevant legal requirements.”

And so MAF would now investigate the labelling and marketing of the formula.

Tariana hasn’t been too happy about this product and its branding.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia raised concerns about the product last week, saying she was alarmed at the association of food with a cultural icon.

The cultural icon is the tiki, and it was news to Alf that associating a tiki with food could cause offence, but there you go. We live and learn.

Kiaora New Zealand is obviously keen to be a good citizen and to be culturally sensitive and has apologised for causing offence.

It will rebrand its products.

“We deeply regret the cultural insensitivity on our part arising from our use of the Heitiki brand,” general manager Sean Xu said.

“We will be rebranding the product without reference to Maori culture but in a way that still promotes its New Zealand manufacture.”

The rebranding could be challenging.

The product must obviously be seen to come from New Zealand.

But Maori imagery is best avoided.

Alf’s initial instinct was to suggest a picture of Colin Meads be used on the label, but Pinetree and baby food are not a comfortable fit.

Whether she's Xena or Lucretia, she's associated with the Mediterranean.

What about Lucy Lawless?

Alf is a great admirer of this splendid specimen of Kiwi womanhood.

Trouble is, she might be associated more with Greeks and Romans than with Kiwis.

Kiri Te Kanawa? Nah. Too old and Tariana might object to the commercial exploitation of a Maori woman.

Rachel Hunter? Nah. Any red-blooded baby (the male ones anyway) would much prefer to opt for the breast milk rather than a canned product if she was their mum.

Alf gave up at this juncture.

He invites his constituents to think about it and sent their ideas to the Kiaora mob (with a copy to Tariana, so she can sign off on the acceptable ones).

One Response to The hunt is on for a Kiwi icon to sell infant formula without being culturally offensive

  1. nasska says:

    It must be said that the exporting company took a chance on doing business in NZ without seeking the advice of a cultural expert

    Had they engaged one of these knowledgeable people they would have been acquainted with the custom of koha & how it can be used to rid bogs of Taniwha & dispel objections to the commercial use of words of Te Reo,

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