First come the flowers and candy. The Dutch are the champion consumers of cut flowers, and this particular preference for petals will be further explored in the pages to come. The British love their chocolates. Perhaps the higher consumption rate there is caused by Cadbury’s advertising, or perhaps the cooler temperatures have historically allowed for easier storage and better quality in the northern countries. At least among our six EU countries per capita chocolate consumption appears to decline with latitude.
In Europe the Spaniards are the most likely to feast on fish. They even come close to the Japanese preference for seafood in Japan they even eat it raw. From the data in the table one might conclude that being surrounded in Japan by water explains the preference for seafood. However, what about the British? The flat geography in England and Scotland allows for the efficient production of beef, and a bit later in the section we consider the consequences frothier strong preference for red meat. The Italians eat more pasta – not a surprise. History is important. The product was actually invented in China and in 1270 Marco Polo brought the innovation back to Italy where it has flourished. Proximity to China also explains the high rate of Japanese pasta (noodle) consumption.
How about alcohol and tobacco? Grapes grow best in France and Italy. Thus a combination of climate and soil conditions explains at least part of the pattern of wine consumptions. Culture also influences the laws, age limits, and such. The legal environment also has implications for the consumptions of cigarettes. Indeed, most striking in the table are not the current consumption numbers. The interesting data are the five year growth rates. Demand is shrinking remarkably fast in the United States and the United Kingdom. Even the Japanese are succeeding in reducing the consumption of cigarettes. But the Italians and Spaniards are loosing the battle.
Any discussion of tobacco consumption leads immediately to considerations of the consequences of consumption. One might expect that high consumption of the romance products – flowers, candy and wine – might lead to a high birthrate. Reference to Exhibit doesn’t yield any clear conclusions. The Germans have some of the highest consumptions levels of the romantic three, but the lowest birthrate among the eight countries.
Perhaps the Japanese diet’s emphasis on fish yields them the longest life expectancy. But length of life among the eight affluent countries represented in the table shows little variation. How people die, however does vary substantially across the countries. The influence of fish versus red meat consumption on the incidence of heart problems is easy to see. Liver problems seem to be associated with greater wine consumptions with greater wine consumption. The high incidence of lung cancer in Spain is associated with high consumption of cigarettes.
The most interesting datum is the extremely high incidence of stomach cancer in Japan. The latest studies suggest two culprits (1) salty foods such as soy sauce and (2) the bacterium helicobacterpylori. The alter is associated with the unsanitary conditions prevalent in Japan immediately after World War II, and it is still hurting health in Japan toady. Finally, because stomach cancer in Japan is so prevalent, the Japanese have developed the most advanced treatment of the diseases that is both procedures and instruments. Even though the death rate is highest, the treatment success rate is like wise the highest in Japan. Whether you are in Tacoma, Toronto, or Tehran, the best medicine for stomach cancer may be a ticket to Tokyo. Indeed, this last example well demonstrates that culture not only affects consumption, it also affects production (of medical services in this case) as well!
The point is that culture matters. It is imperative for foreign marketers to learn to appreciate the intricacies of cultures different from their own if they are to be effective in foreign markets.