Packaged Foods Exposed IV (Unilever I)

The Packpackagedindexaged Foods Exposed series takes a look at the largest food manufacturers in the world. What products fall under their banners; how has their influence shaped economic policy, society and culture; how have they affected the environments they operate in; and what relationships do they foster within the countries they are located?

This series places corporations in a critical light, hoping to provide a more balanced image to the advertising and PR campaigns launched by some of the most influential food corporations on the planet.

In this fourth episode of the Packaged Foods Exposed series, we take a look at one of the largest consumer products companies in the world – Unilever

With such a significant influence on agriculture, food and health here in Canada and abroad, this focus on the company will be spread out over a two-part series.

Part I

On Part I of the Unilever series, we explore one product that the company maintains considerable control over in Canada – margarine, in particular their Becel, Imperial, Blue Bonnet and I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter brands.

Margarine may very well, by the end of the year, spark the first ever interprovincial retaliatory trade war since the Agreement on Internal Trade was first signed by the provinces in 1994. How could a tub of margarine be so powerful you may ask? The province of Quebec is the last place in the world that maintains a margarine colouration ban, that is a ban that prohibits margarine to be coloured yellow like butter. Such a ban infuriates a company like Unilever who now must produce two different products, one for Quebec and one for the rest of Canada.

But margarine isn’t new to conflict in Canada and the United States. In fact the history of margarine is probably one of the most fascinating windows into the evolution of our food system over the past 100 years…

“The evolution of this problem is closely related to historical shifts from agriculture to industrial order” – Richard Ball / Robert Lilly

“[Margarine is] another sign of the artificiality of modern life.” – Mark Twain

With such significant statements, margarine does indeed seem like a product worth deconstructing given how accepted margarine has become as part of the Canadian diet.

Also on the broadcast will be an update on our complaint filed with Advertising Standards Canada following the April 12, 2007 broadcast on Kraft Foods.


Sean McPhee – PresidentVegetable Oil Industry of Canada (VOIC) (Toronto, ON) – An industry group representing 75,000 oilseed growers across Canada, oilseed processors and suppliers of fats and oils to the food industry, and makers of oilseed-based food products, such as margarine, cooking oil, salad dressing, mayonnaise and dessert toppings. Members include the Canadian Canola Growers Association, the Canadian Oilseed Processors Association, Archer Daniel Midland Agri-Industries Ltd., Bunge Canada, Canbra Foods, Cargill Limited, AarhusKarlshamn US and Canada, Loders Croklaan, Unilever Canada and Rich Products Corporation.

Therese Beaulieu – Assistant Director, Communication and PolicyDairy Farmers of Canada (Ottawa, ON) – A national policy, lobbying and promotional organization representing Canada’s 16,000 dairy farms. DFC strives to create favourable conditions for the Canadian dairy industry, today and in the future. It works to maintain policies that foster the viability of Canadian dairy producers and promote dairy products and their health benefits.

Audio Clips

“Housewives Save With Margarine” – CBC News Roundup (1948) – Broadcast on December 14, 1948 shortly following the legalization of margarine in Canada. Host: Bill Reid. Reporters: Warren Baldwin, Dave Price. Interviewer: Bill Beatty. Guest: Erle Kitchen.

Musical Selection (name/title/album/label)
Theme/Soundclip – Adham Shaikh, Infusion, Fusion, Sonic Turtle (CDN)
Soundbite – Nick Ayoub, Saphir, Ready or Not, Do it Right Music (CDN)
Soundbite – Bombay Dub Orchestra, Mumtaz, Bombay Dub Orchestra, Six Degrees Records
Music – David French/Louis Simao, Reflexoes em 2 por 4, Faia, Independent (CDN)