Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Battle of Britain: To Re-brand or to not Re-brand?

It's not until you move away from somewhere that you realise the peculiarities of the likes and dislikes you had/have. Even just traveling from Georgia to North Carolina to Pennsylvania, you go from having Nehi Peach Soda to Cheerwine (cherry soda) to Birch Beer (birch bark soda, sweeter than root beer).*
I've always spent my life between Europe and America, so I never felt too far away from one, since I always knew I would return to the other. Then I moved to the UK whereupon the culture shock hit me like a tonne (that was as difficult for me to write as it was for you to read, fellow-Americans) of bricks. Although there were Oreos, and Tropicana, the reliable comfort foods I counted on as a child were missing. I didn't expect them to be there. Still, some Cheetos, or Kraft Deluxe, or Bush's Vegetarian Baked Beans would be amazing. Don't forget chocolate-frosted yellow-cake Betty Crocker cupcakes with sugar stars.
I became further confused by the products that appeared to be half-British, half-American. Take Walker's Crisps for example. They are in fact Lays Potato Chips. They have the exact same packaging and branding, but completely different flavours. British flavours include: ready salted, cheese & onion, salt & vinegar, steak & onion, roast chicken, smoky bacon, prawn cocktail, pickled onion, tomato ketchup, BBQ rib, Worcester sauce, cheddar cheese & bacon, and sour cream & chive (the last two new additions). American flavours include (counting only the most basic chips): balsamic sweet onion, barbecue, cajun herb & spice, cheddar & sour cream, chile limón, classic, dill pickle, flamin' hot, tomato & basil, hot & spicy barbecue, lightly salted (diet), limón, salt & vinegar, sour cream & onion, southwest cheese & chilies, and tangy Carolina barbecue. This doesn't begin to even count baked, kettle-cooked, or wavy options nor does it account for all the other brands Frito-Lay owns, (Fritos and Cheetos, anyone?)

Strangely, this isn't the only re-named brand in Britain. Take the following for example:

Walkers Crisps = Lay's Potato Chips (U.S., France, Germany etc.)
Batchelor's Soup = Campbell's Soup (but no chicken noodle!)
Lynx = Axe
Vauxhall = GM (Saturn) = Opel (in Germany)
Galaxy Chocolate = Dove Chocolate

Now, try to figure this out in relation to your childhood. When my feverish (Northern Irish) boyfriend deliriously asked me for Cheetos, I considered going to the store, until I realised, that they don't make them here. As he pointed out, he's seen them on television but they are impossible to come by. There are Wotsits, but those are like cheese puffs, most similar to Utz. They'll do in a pinch, but they aren't nearly as crunchy!
It's no tragedy, but it does make you think. The other day I got loads of Facebook notifications about my status update. The culprit? I had posted a picture of my imported (and overpriced) Bush's Vegetarian Baked Breans. One friend wanted to know why they were vegetarian. When I mentioned that most baked beans in America are bacon flavoured and/or have bits of bacon, the responses were incredulous. Forget baked beans in tomato sauce! Forget Heinz (the true mainstay of most Brits)! Bring on the bacon! No, honestly, requests have been made for these 'baconed beans.' While I might be converting the masses, I can tell you that no matter how long I live here, that baked beans for breakfast, (even the American kind) will remain a no-go.
What couldn't you live without if you moved to another country? How much would you pay for a taste of home? My boyfriend swears it would be Heinz Baked Beans (but admits that the American ones are also pretty good). I've paid ridiculous amounts of money from everything to Kraft Dinners to Campbell's Tomato Soup and Hershey's Syrup. Let's not forget how every trip home culminates in a mad dash to the supermarket where I attempt to stuff as much food as possible in my suitcase, or the fact that most parcels from America lead to shrieks of joy. But having been asked to bring back everything from red Solo cups (those red cups all the kids drink out of on American TV) to Lucky Charms (not sold here due to extreme amount of sugar), by British friends makes me confident, that if film doesn't work out, that trading in reasonably-priced American products might...

Some of the spoils from October's trip to NoVA...

*For the record, all three are fantastic!

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