Luis Treviño Chapa: The death of the Bimbo Bear

Luis Treviño Chapa Luis Treviño Chapa Source: Courtesy

A few days ago, Mexico was shocked by a news item that generated all kinds of reactions and comments on social networks. No, it has nothing to do with economic crisis, not unemployment, not the stock market, not vaccines for the coronavirus. It has to do with … cartoons.

It turns out that recently, the Senate of the Republic unanimously approved an initiative to modify the General Health Law in food labeling that prohibits putting “persuasive elements”. That is, unhealthy foods for children may not have characters, pets or cartoons in their packaging.

This limitation will destroy a long list of celebrities such as: Marinela’s Gansito, Toño’s Tiger from Zucaritas, Chester Cheetos, Melvin from Choco Krispis, Pancho Pantera from Choco Milk and the clown from Paleta Payaso, among others (Dr. Simi, you save yourself and go to the next round).

There are many characters who will say goodbye and if I omitted the Bimbo Bear from the list, it was because he refuses to disappear. This week it became a trend in social networks, as it has searched for alternatives to be present, having an alleged reappearance in products that are neither cupcakes nor cookies, but in the packaging of Pétalo napkins. In this way, the famous bakery ingeniously knew how to turn the application of the NOM-051 (Bear Bimbo; you are crazy).

All this matter has polarized the opinions of the people because, on the one hand, there are those who are in favor of the initiative, since in Mexico we have a serious problem of obesity and the highest incidence of deaths from diabetes among countries with large populations worldwide (in 2018 alone, 106,525 people died from this cause).

But on the other hand there are those who ask: will this law make children consume less sweets and cakes? It is hard to believe that, when removing a cartoon, as if by magic, children are going to turn to eating broccoli and chayote. Are these characters to blame for the overweight of children?

Let’s look at the case of Japan. According to the OECD this country has one of the lowest obesity rates with 4.3%, contrasting with 28.3% in Mexico. However, Japan does not have such a restriction and has a colorful range of candy packaging that includes characters such as pandas, karatekas, and even the famous Pokemon. Knowing this then, How much more persuasive power does Gansito Marinela have to fill children with calories than an adorable Japanese panda? .

The reality is that the behavior in the consumer’s buying habits is not changed on the surface, but from the bottom. It takes more than one modification of logos, colors or characters. When you want to throw down a tree, you don’t go to cut the branches, they grow back. If the Marlboro Man has taught us anything, it is that, even and taking it away, companies will find new creative ways of offering their products.

If you want to shoot down a tree, you must cut it down from the root. It must be understood that the improvement in eating habits, more than by packaging, depend on other types of factors such as the training and culture of the people; of homeschooling, of what parents and guardians teach and prepare children for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Another factor that also influences considerably is the availability of food. Eating healthy is not cheap or accessible. It is enough to walk through the aisles of the supermarket where the natural and organic products are. They are the most expensive in their category (and generally found in areas with upper-class population).

In a country with as much poverty as there is in Mexico, no matter how much they want to eat well and dream of having a bodybuilder’s body, a large number of Mexicans do not have many options to satisfy their hunger; they have to settle for the cheapest and what is available; with a 10 peso cake full of calories. With or without character.

This is an opinion column. The expressions used here are the sole responsibility of the person signing them and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of El Financiero.