SNACKS WITH ADDED HOP: UK supermarket to start selling insect nibbles

London – VIJAY SHAH via Sky News

If you are tired of the same old potato crisps, peanuts and trail mix for your snacking needs, and want to try something radically different, a supermarket in the UK has begun selling an ‘edible insects’ range, where you can now chow on crickets or graze on a grasshopper.

Sainsbury’s, a mid-market retail chain headquartered in London, will be selling various crunchy dried insects as snacks across 250 of its UK stores, retailing in small packs for £1.50 eachSky News reported yesterday. The range, titled ‘Eat Grub’ – a play on the traditional Cockney dialect term for food, ‘grub’ – is made by an external supplier of roast insects of the same name who have approached the supermarket chain to promote their products.

 

A highlight of the Eat Grub range includes BBQ-smoked crickets which taste-testers have described as being “crunchy in texture with a rich smoky flavour”. Sainsbury’s is not the first to sell the range of creepy-crawly nibbles though. Online upmarket supermarket Ocado, a division of Britain’s Waitrose and Partners retail firm, has been stocking Eat Grub for five months previously, to mixed perceptions among its shoppers. 

One online reviewer wrote on Ocado’s site in reference to the BBQ crickets: “My hubby [husband]… said they didn’t taste at all of BBQ… [all] he could taste was fish sauce? Way too expensive as well.”

Another reviewer however was more upbeat about the snacks. They wrote: “Tried the final flavour in this selection from Eat Grub and LOVED this – much tastier than a bag of crisps without the calories. Couldnt (sic) stop eating them!”

Sainsbury’s advised consumers brave enough to try the edible insects and grubs to eat them straight out of the packet as a quick snack or use them in cooking as a garnish for tacos, noodles and salads.

Insects and arachnids are common as a cheap and protein-rich food source for non-vegetarians/vegans in many parts of the world. In Malawi, people armed with giant nets catch and eat mosquitoes, crickets are roasted as a snack in Thailand, fried scorpions are big business in China, and Cambodians will go to great lengths to lure a species of endemic burrowing tarantula out of their holes to fry them and even sell them to passing tourists.

In the UK and much of the Western world, the idea of eating insects and other arthropods is often met with revulsion, even though crustaceans and molluscs are widely consumed there. However with intensive farming practices of larger livestock such as cows and sheep being increasingly harmful for the environment and animal welfare, experts have encouraged consumers and retailers to look at more sustainable sources of nutrition, with insects being high on that list of new food outlets.

According to the Eat Grub company, founded in 2014 by Shami Radia and Neil Whippey to introduce more people in the West to insect foods, dried crickets contain more protein per gram than beef, chicken or pork – with 68g of protein per 100g, compared to 31g of protein in beef.

Radia said: “Currently, insects are eaten and enjoyed by two billion people worldwide.

“We’re on a mission to show the West that as well as having very strong sustainability and environmental credentials, they are also seriously tasty and shouldn’t be overlooked as a great snack or recipe ingredient.”

According to a survey conducted by Sainsbury’s and Eat Grub, ten per cent of the British public have eaten insect snacks and around half have rated them as delicious.

SOURCES:

Shere Singh/Facebook.

“Sainsbury’s launches £1.50 edible insect range in UK supermarket first” – Sky News/Sky UK (17 November 2018) https://news.sky.com/story/sainsburys-launches-150-edible-insect-range-in-uk-supermarket-first-11556476?fbclid=IwAR19mzj7-VT83_Eqpp15OeWEbLRMJn9hR3aI7K7bF5HTKClNkQBU33puE5U

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Fried Crickets – Chiang Mai Night Bazaar” – Alpha, Flickr (12 March 2009) https://www.flickr.com/photos/avlxyz/3429005598

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NUTS ABOUT NUTELLA?: French shoppers riot over heavily discounted chocolate spread

Paris – VIJAY SHAH via CHRIS BAYNES and The Independent

Everyone loves a bargain. But on the negative side, a shopper’s paradise can very rapidly turn into a shopper’s nightmare when people turn ugly over bagging cut-price goods. Just ask any retail worker on a Black Friday in Britain. That free-for-all mentality became very obvious this past week in France, when local supermarket chain Intermarché heavily reduced the price of Nutella hazelnut and chocolate spread, only for riots to ensure and people reported injured in mad scrambles and store fisticuffs.

Intermarché unveiled a special promo on the popular spread, manufactured by Italian firm Ferrero SpA, reducing the price from €4.50 (£3.90) to €1.41 (£1.23) for the 950 gram jar. Customers keen to get their Nutella crepe fix practically fought over the jars in the aisles, causing police to be called to several of the chain’s outlets. There were reports of people pushing and shoving, with one woman left bleeding and a supermarket worker ambushed as they brought fresh stocks of Nutella to the shop floor.

 

According to UK newspaper the Independent, French social media users shared footage of shoppers swarming around shelves of the spread, jostling each other. “Seriously? All this for Nutella,” remarked one stunned bystander. Another commented: “This is not normal.”

One customer was said to have suffered a black eye during a fight that broke out over the sweet spread in a store in the town of L’Horme, in the central Loire region. That store sold out of Nutella in only fifteen minutes, a store employee told newspaper Le Progres. The manager of another Intermarché in Rive-de-Gier, central France, said 600 pots were sold within five minutes. One customer described shoppers as “like animals”.

“A woman had her hair pulled, an elderly lady took a box on her head, another had a blood [sic] hand,” they said. “It was horrible.”

Some extremely desperate Nutella fans in the town of Montbrison, also in central France, went to the extent of hiding Nutella jars in secret places in the shop, ready to harvest them the next day, while keeping the precious foodstuffs out of the sight of rival shoppers. The manager of that store, Jean-Marie Daragon, tried to remedy the madness by bringing in a Nutella rationing scheme, limiting customers to three jars per person.

Alba, Piedmont-based manufacturer Ferrero condemned the violence across the border but also distanced itself from Intermarché and its controversial promotion. “We wish to clarify that this promotion was decided unilaterally by the Intermarché brand,” it said in a statement. 

Nutella is extremely popular in France, with 100 million jars a year consumed by citizens, making France one of the hazelnut and chocolate flavoured spread’s biggest markets globally.

SOURCES:

The Independent, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/TheIndependentOnline/

“Nutella ‘riots’: Sale on chocolate and hazelnut spread sparks chaos in French supermarkets” – Chris Baynes, Independent (26 January 2018) http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/nutella-riots-france-discount-supermarkets-french-police-intermarche-shoppers-customers-chocolate-a8178946.html?utm_campaign=Echobox&utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook

IMAGE CREDIT:

“File:MAD OVER NUTELLA.JPG” – Raginianand, Wikimedia Commons (3 June 2015) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:MAD_OVER_NUTELLA.JPG

 

HIGH STREET TV – New senior team appointed at media company

York – VIJAY SHAH via Entirely Yorkshire

A Yorkshire-based retail channel company, High Street TV, has announced the creation of a new team of senior executives which it is hoped will help boost the profile and success of the company, reports the website Entirely Yorkshire.

High Street TV operates five television channels dedicated to shopping in the UK, and is described as the country’s most successful and longest running multi-channel DRTV Home Shopping Channel, diffusing around 3,000 hours of viewing time across its platforms, along with advertising on another fifty channels including major outlets like Channel 4 and Five. The media firm specialises in selling home and fitness goods, such as food preparation devices, electronics and fitness machines. 

 

The company has already enjoyed considerable success in a highly competitive industry, making it to the The Sunday Times Fast Track 100 business rankings of fast-growing firms. High Street TV has also being named the third fastest growing in its native county with a 42nd place ranking in the national league.

The company’s most significant appointment is Andy Haywood. Previously involved with High Street TV as a creative consultant, Haywood will commence a new role as Head of Creative. He has worked in a  creative capacity for several high-profile media companies, agencies and other clients. In a comment attributed to him by Entirely Yorkshire, Haywood said: “The opportunity for me to leave my own footprint on High Street TVs brand identity and creative portfolio is really exciting. We’ve already begun assembling a fantastic team with the knowledge and experience to really push the company’s brand and creativity to another level so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can achieve for High Street TV.”

Alongside Haywood, the shopping channel firm have also hired three other executives who will bring more original content and creativity to High Street TV. Jill Ford, formerly of baby products company Mamas & Papas joins as Senior Designer. Will Parkinson , previously a graphic designer at electronics firm Siemens, will start a new job as Middleweight Designer; and James MacDonald, a Dublin-based medical animation specialist and television director, will take on the mantle of Lead Animator.

High Street TV’s marketing director Francesca Woodward told Entirely Yorkshire: “We were continuously impressed by Andy’s innovative approach to his role as Creative Consultant, so when we were looking towards appointing a Head of Creative, Andy was a natural fit.’

Along with Andy, we’ve welcomed three new employees to the High Street TV team. Will, James and Jill have brought a wealth of experience to the company, and they will work together to strengthen our brand identity through fresh and innovative creative content”

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Business Talk RTG, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/BTRTG

Entirely Yorkshire‏, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/EntYorkshire

“Newly appointed team at High Street TV” – Entirely Yorkshire https://www.entirelyyorkshire.co.uk/news/retail/york/newly-appointed-team-at-high-street-tv9888?x=3

High Street TV https://www.highstreettv.com/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Free illustration: Shopping, Final Sale, Shopping Cart – Free Image on Pixabay – 1163506” – Alexas_Fotos, Pixabay (28 January 2016) https://pixabay.com/en/shopping-final-sale-shopping-cart-1163506/

PEARLS OF EXCELLENCE: Newham Business Awards this October

gb

London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via the Newham Mag

While often labelled as one of the poorest areas of London, the east London borough of Newham is also a place where people aim to rise above the difficulties of deprivation, and one way where it is obvious is within the Newham business community. Newham is home to hundreds of small and medium-size businesses, ranging from decorators with white vans through independently owned boutiques and restaurants, through to major national businesses such as Tesco and the Wetherspoons gastropub chain. The borough is home to a long tradition of independent entrepreneurship stretching from the ‘rag-and-bone’ men of days gone past to modern web designers and consultants operating out of their bedrooms, providing services to thousands of people and companies inside and outside the London region.

Now Newham businesses have a chance to place themselves on the local stage and show that Newham is a great place to trade and reach out to customers with the help of the Newham Business Awards, happening this October. The Awards, which aim to recognise the achievements of local businesses, and are being sponsored by the borough’s council, will take place at the Old Town Hall in Stratford on the 13th October 2015. Stratford is one of east London’s modern business success stories. The district is home to two shopping centres, the Stratford Shopping Centre, and the newer Westfield Stratford City, which formed part of the Olympic legacy regeneration bequeathed to Newham after the London Games of 2012. Stratford is also home to hundreds of companies mainly involved in the retail and services sectors.

The Newham Business Awards are taking on nominations in ten categories, including business and business person of the year, innovation, e-commerce, new business, green business, sole trader and micro-business, training ad education, and community involvement.

The awards are being organised by the Newham Chamber of Commerce, which is located at the Stratford Town Hall, a Victorian historical building close to the district’s retail area, and are receiving heavy backing from businesses such as Asper’s, the operator of the wildly popular Asper’s Casino in Westfield, London City Airport, local newspaper the Newham Recorder, Tate and Lyle, a sugar and sweetener manufacturer who maintain a factory in the Silvertown area of southern Newham, alongside the local government representation.

Speaking with council publication the Newham Mag, the borough’s chamber secretary John James said “With 7,500 new businesses established here during the past five years, there are pearls of excellence worthy of the community’s attention.”

Councillor Joy Laguda, who met recently with members of the Chamber of Commerce, added: “We are pleased to be able to recognise businesses and especially the efforts of young entrepreneurs”

The Newham Chamber of Commerce was established in 1967, shortly after the borough was created from the merger of two earlier areas, West Ham and East Ham. As the official business voice of the new borough, the NCC sought to give a voice to local businesses and traders and strengthen their cause through support and representation. The NCC has close links with local government and regularly campaigns on local and city-wide issues affecting business, such as increased Thames crossings and a possible Crossrail 2 train link through Newham to neighbouring Barking. The chamber now has 200 members with 800 business people receiving its news via email.

SOURCES:
“Awards are just the business” – The Newham Mag, Newham Council [Issue 345] (15 July 2016)
“ABOUT NCC” – Newham Chamber of Commerce http://www.newhamchamber.com/about-ncc/
IMAGE CREDIT:
Pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/photos/award/

BLACK FRIDAY: Don’t let it become ‘black eye’ day

gb
London, UNITED KINGDOM
VIJAY SHAH via SWNS digitalhub

The American commercial tradition of Black Friday has made its presence felt on our shores and high streets these past couple of year. One of the most important days for sales and footfall in the retail calendar, Black Friday is when shops slash the prices of items like white goods, clothes and electricals by as much as 50-70%. While Black Friday is a blessing for bargain hunters, it has also become notorious for scenes of absolute mayhem, with videos surfacing of shoppers tussling with and climbing over each other to hook that last widescreen smart TV. In some cases, stores participating in Black Friday sales had been forced to call police in to quell fights and near riots.

Despite the bad publicity around some incidents on Black Friday, a recent survey of 2,000 adults produced by the Nationwide building society found that one in ten Britons is still prepared to brave the crowds and stand toe-to-toe with fellow shoppers to bag those once-a-year heavily reduced must-haves. The study also found that many shoppers are prepared to tough it for the best bargains, with many survey respondents expecting to awaken their aggressive streaks as they hit the high streets for this year’s Black Friday events on November 27.

(c) SWNS digital/72Point

 

The Nationwide survey figures also show that in 2014, one in three adults made a trip to the shopping centre on Black Friday. This year, the average shopper is expected to spend £176. Altogether, customers are predicted to spend £120 million on debit cards alone, more than on December 19th, the last Friday before Christmas, when shopkeepers and retailers expect to recieve the most takings as people scour the shops for last-minute festive gifts.

Phil Smith, head of current accounts at Nationwide, which commissioned the study, said: “For many, Black Friday coincides with the last payday before Christmas, so they use it to kick-start and supplement their Christmas shopping.

“And with only a limited number of the best deals available, tensions can spill over, resulting in arguments over goods usually associated with panic buying.

‘’This means that in the cold light of day, what seemed to be a good bargain could end up being a waste of money.

“Customers should consider doing a little bit of research and planning beforehand, as many stores will advertise offers ahead of time.

‘’In doing so, we can ensure we’re buying the goods we actually want at a discounted price rather than being tempted by the lure of a bargain on something we don’t particularly need.”

The Nationwide survey also predicted the most popular Black Friday items shoppers will want on their lists include home appliances such as microwaves, coffee machines, and blenders, laptops, computer and video games and televisions.

However reduced items often quickly run out of stock, leading to customers duking it out in the aisles and jackets and hair being pulled. The Nationwide’s shopping poll discovered that men are nearly twice as likely to clash over stuff on the shelf as women. One in eight (13%) were prepared to get into an argument with another shopper, compared with 7% of surveyed female respondents. Ironically for the arguments over the last television or CD player that will be occurring in stores up and down the British Isles, the poll also discovered that one in eight adults (13%) will end up returning goods for refunds.

In fact, Black Friday could result in thousands of returned items, as more than half confessed to surrendering to impulse purchases on the day.

Nationwide’s Phil Smith added: “This Black Friday, people should consider putting money aside for something they actually want rather than simply buying something because it is listed as a bargain.

‘’The benefits of impulse saving can have a positive impact on our finances. And for those who make big home appliance purchases, consider extending your warranty to cover all eventualities.’’

Several leading high street names including Curry’s, Argos, GAME and John Lewis are already gearing up with in-store Black Friday linked promotions and figures for online shopping too are expected to reach stellar proportions. Last year, £810 million was spend online alone by UK shoppers.

SOURCE/IMAGE CREDIT:
“Don’t Let Black Friday Turn Into Black Eye Day” – SWNS digital/72Point (25 November 2015) http://www.swnsdigital.com/2015/11/dont-let-black-friday-turn-into-black-eye-day/

GIFT FOR A BOY?: Young child gets supermarket to remove sexist sign

Maggie Cole, a seven-year-old resident of Poole, Dorsetsouthern England has struck a blow for gender equality in the war against gendered stereotypes after managing to get her local supermarket to bin what she considered to be a sexist sign advertising a clock in their toy department, the Metro newspaper reports.

She stumbled across the sign while shopping with her mother Karen at the Tesco supermarket near their home in the seaside town. The cardboard sign, which was affixed to a shelf in the children’s’ toy aisle, had been erected by the retailer to advertise a Marvel Comics alarm clock. Underneath a picture of the product were the words “Fun gifts for boys” printed in bold type. Maggie was so annoyed by the store’s biased suggestion of the suitability of the clock, that she alerted her mother who took a picture of her daughter with the offending sign and tweeted it.

The plucky youngster then complained to Tesco, saying that she would “not stand for the notion boys and girls liked specific toys” the Metro reported. The supermarket responded by removing the sign, scoring a victory for gender equality and many parents’ struggle to remind retailers of the right for children to choose toys and games according to their preferences, not their gender. Maggie is said to be a huge fan of superheroes, in particular BatmanSupermanSpider Man and Wonder Woman, and was quoted by Metro as describing the supermarket as ‘very stupid’.

Karen Cole tweeted a picture of Maggie looking displeased next to the sign, along with the caption “My superhero loving 7yo daughter not impressed when she spotted this sign in @Tesco today @LetToysBeToys” The @LetToysBeToys handle belongs to an activist group, Let Toys Be Toys, which campaigns against gender-based stereotyping in the toy and marketing industries. Maggie herself has long made it clear that she believes that toys are “for all people”, according to Metro.

A Tesco spokesperson later commented “The sign has been removed and we’re sorry if it caused any confusion“.

In February 2014, another seven-year-old, Charlotte Benjamin, wrote a letter to manufacturer Lego criticising the Denmark-based firm for gender segregation and the heavy bias of the company towards young male customers, while having few, and inevitably pink, options for young girls. In the letter, which went viral after it was republished on the internet, Charlotte wrote eloquently “All the girls (in the Lego play sets) did was sit at home, go to the beach, and shop, and they had no jobs but the boys went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks.

Retailers selling toys and children’s gifts have traditionally marketed different toys to boys and girls, while many toy manufacturers usually market blue toys to male children and pink ones to female children, although increasing activism against differential gender roles has reduced the appetite for this form of marketing among consumers. Many British parents now opt to bring up their children with gender-neutral toys and games.

Increasingly, parents and advocates of gender rights have brought toy manufacturers and purveyors to task for enforcing what they believe are stereotypes of men and women via only marketing different toys to boys and girls. The backlash against ‘dolls for girls and trucks for boys’ has seen many UK shops no longer stock toys by gender. Studies have shown that forcing children to play with toys ‘expected’ for their gender can have an impact on their career choices as adults, as well as pressuring them to follow societal stereotypes.

In June this year, UK Equalities Minister, Jenny Wilmott, appealed to the country’s retailers to stop sorting toys by gender, claiming such segregation would put off girls from entering traditionally male-dominated career paths such as science and engineering, according to The Guardian newspaper. In an interview with the paper, Wilmott said “Children should be able to make their own choices over which toys they want to play with, without them being labelled as ‘for girls’ or ‘for boys’“. The minister also proposed that toy and other product catalogues should categorise playthings by topics such as construction, science or beauty, rather than in broad categories for boys and girls. Other Members of Parliament however, have accused toy firms of ‘aggressive gender segregation’ and that their obsession with pink kitchen sets, princess dresses and vacuum cleaners for girls is putting them off dreaming of being mathematicians, scientists or professors and harming their confidence levels, says the Daily Mail. Many toy aisles in the United Kingdom are little more than shelves of pink or blue, with one particular gender being aimed at, while toy manufacturers have been accused of using pink and blue themed and gender biased marketing techniques to put pressure on parents and carers to buy into stereotypes and also to charge premiums on certain products.

SOURCES:
Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/
Metro, Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/MetroUK?fref=nf
“Girl, 7, gets Tesco to change sign that says clock is ‘gift for a boy’” – Jimmy Nsubuga, Metro/Associated Newspapers Ltd (25 November 2014) http://metro.co.uk/2014/11/25/girl-7-gets-tesco-to-change-sign-that-says-clock-is-gift-for-a-boy-4962697/?ito=facebook
“Stop shops sorting toys by gender, says equalities minister” – Rowena Mason, The Guardian – News – World News – Gender/Guardian News and Media Limited (27 June 2014) http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/27/toys-gender-jenny-wilmott-science-engineering-careers
“Toy firms accused of ‘aggressive gender segregation’ with pink obsession blamed for putting girls off maths and science” – Matt Chorley, Mail Online News/Associated Newspapers Ltd (5 February 2014) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2552381/Toy-firms-accused-aggressive-gender-segregation-pink-girls-puts-maths-science.html
TWEET/IMAGE CREDIT:
Karen Cole, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/karlou

 

TESCO CUSTARD CREAM SPREAD: A new take on a nation’s favourite biscuit

The humble custard cream biscuit is a much-loved institution for teatime in the U.K. Consisting simply of a vanilla custard flavoured filling sandwiched between two elaborately-decorated oblong biscuits, the custard cream has long been loved for its wholesome flavour and its duplicity in eating methods. Many just simply take a bite out of the biscuits while a significant minority will separate the biscuits in half and lick off the filling. The custard cream biscuit also lends itself superbly to that other British teatime institution – being dunked in a cup of tea or milk.

Supermarket retailer Tesco has decided to make its own take on these homely custard delights by launching its own custard cream spread based on the filling. A single jar contains 400 grams of the sweet custardy goodness and is being retailed for the price of £1.99, according to Tesco’s website. The main ingredients of the product if you are curious are custard cream biscuits (37%), rapeseed oil, sugar, palm oil, natural vanilla flavouring, and hazelnuts. Various media outlets have already hailed the spread as a revolutionary change for the average British lunchtime.

The new product, which comes in a peanut butter style jar, has a yellow plastic lid and carries a label emblazoned with the Tesco logo on a background of the highly ornate face of a custard cream biscuit. It has already become a huge hit with the store’s customers and also has practically blown up the internet as well, with popular news feed site Buzzfeed describing the spread as “a revolution in biscuits”. The spread understandably makes a good filling for custard cream biscuits, but Twitter users have reportedly used it to stick together two Digestives too, while one particularly adventurous person added porridge oats to the jar to make a custard cream oatmeal breakfast. It has also been seen in currant buns and in bagels. It also looks like it would make a good filling for sandwiches or a dip for other kinds of biscuits as well, if Twitter is anything to go by. 

Not everyone has been so enthusiastic about the spread. Some has criticised the spread’s nutritional value and its soft consistency, while one critic claimed that the supermarket chain was trying to imitate the United States. Another described it as “all kinds of wrong”, according to the Telegraph newspaper.

Tesco have also launched other spreads in its British biscuits series, including a chocolate flavoured version replicating the inviting taste of the Bourbon biscuit, which is similar to custard creams but in an entirely chocolaty format. However apparently this spread has not been as popular. You can also buy one that tastes of chocolate chip cookies or Oreos. Basic chocolate spreads made for use in sandwiches have been long established in the UK, with Nestle and Cadbury’s being leaders in the field. The Italian hazelnut concoction Nutella, manufactured by Ferrero SpA, also enjoys cult popularity among British shoppers, but Tesco are the first food manufacturer to market a spread directly influenced by the U.K.’s culinary traditions.

SOURCES:
Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/
“Tesco Is Selling Custard Cream Biscuit Spread And Life Will Never Be The Same” – Patrick Smith, Buzzfeed/BuzzFeed, Inc (31 October 2014) http://www.buzzfeed.com/patricksmith/custard-cream-biscuit-spread?bffb&utm_term=4ldqphz&utm_content=buffer219a7&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer#4ldqphz
“Tesco Custard Cream Spread 400G” – Tesco http://www.tesco.com/groceries/product/details/?id=284754252
“Is Tesco’s new custard cream biscuit spread genius or madness?” – Leah Hyslop, The Telegraph – Home – Food and Drink – Food and Drink News/Telegraph Media Group Limited (31 October 2014) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinknews/11201987/Is-Tescos-new-custard-cream-biscuit-spread-genius-or-madness.html
“New Tesco Custard Cream Biscuit Spread” –  Katherine GG, Grocery Gems (5 September 2014) http://grocerygems.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/new-tesco-custard-cream-biscuit-spread.html
IMAGE CREDIT/TWEET:
BuzzFeed UK, Twitter/Twitter Inc. (31 October 2014) https://twitter.com/BuzzFeedUK

DEAL GURU’S DANCING SAGE: Indian retail advert accused of defamation towards Hindus

Indian online retailer AskMeBazaar.com has been condemned for religious insensitivity by Hindu groups after it recently broadcast a video advertisement on YouTube that depicts a Hindu sage (clergyman) dancing with a scantily-clad woman.

The thirty-second advert depicts an actor dressed as the sage, wearing sacred rudraksha beads and saffron coloured garments associated with religious figureheads of India’s largest faith, levitating over a CGI building buried mostly in the ground while Bollywood actress and ‘item girl Kangana Ranaut is perched on the edge of the building dressed in modern Western clothes, including a short red skirt. As the clip begins, the sage seated in a traditional meditational posture floats towards Ms. Ranaut and asks her why she is so busy. As she peers at the screen of her mobile phone, the actress, who plays the role of a ‘shopping queen’, begins to excitedly talk about the cheap shopping she can do on the AskMeBazaar.com site. The building rises from the ground to show the figure ‘70%’ – an allusion to the savings the company is offering. The clip ends with the sage and Kangana dancing in a comical carefree manner. The bilingual English and Hindi advert, entitled “Kangana Ranaut shops at Deal Guru” was made to promote the Deal Guru service, which aims to help the site’s buyers and sellers maximise their savings.

AskMeBazaar.com is an online shop selling a wide variety of goods for the Indian market, ranging from fashion accessories and jewellery to medicines and footwear, at often heavily discounted prices. Like eBay, the site enables sellers to set up shop and offer customers popular good and designer brands in one centralised location. The site’s information page describes AskMeBazaar.com as “an effort to recreate the great Indian shopping experience online“.

The AskMeBazaar advert has attracted numerous complaints over its portrayal of a Hindu priest.

While many have seen the advert as light-hearted fun, harmlessly exploiting Indian consumers’ passion for shopping and Bollywood movies, religious Hindus have registered complaints with AskMeBazaar’s owner, Noida-based Getit Stores Pvt. Ltd., for offending their religious sentiments in what they perceive as a disrespectful portrayal of a sacred figurehead, and in particular his accompanying a character wearing what many regard as inappropriate clothing. Many Hindu sages are married, but some take vows of austerity and celibacy in order to maintain a close relationship with God and to steer their souls away from earthly illusions and temptations. Many women in India‘s cities have taken to adopting Western-influenced fashions, including the wearing of miniskirts and other ‘revealing’ attire. Many argue that these new modern women are exercising their freedom to wear what they want in an increasingly globalised environment, but opponents say such clothing, often inspired by the raunchy costumes of Bollywood actresses such as Rangana Kanaut, is an affront to general Indian culture, with its emphasis on modesty in dress and actions. The resultant culture clash of two very different cultures in India’s big cities, or ‘metros’ such as Mumbai and Delhi, have seen tensions between secular and religious groups and societies – which have occasionally turned violent.

The protests are being spearheaded by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, an organisation campaigning for worldwide Hindu rights. The Samiti also registered a complaint with Getit Stores, who have so far refused to pull the advert offline. A spokesperson for the company denied that any intentional denigration of the Hindu faith was intended, and the advert is still available for viewing, on both the AskMeBazaar site and on their YouTube channel. HJS however insists that the advert is clearly disrespectful of Hindu religion and of its saints and sages, who are held in high esteem by Hindus globally. They pointed out the irony of AskMeBazaar using Hindu religious personalities as figures of comical fun, yet they had no history of using clergy from other religions in India in the same manner. In addition to criticising the company’s perceived intentions in using the dancing sage, the HJS also warned the company that they stood to lose valuable business and customers due to the video.

An HJS activist, Shivaji Vatkar, wrote to the Noida offices of Getit Stores on the 15th August, which is India’s Independence Day. He also called in; where an office worker there denied that the advert was insulting. Vatkar’s letter has yet to be replied to by Getit Stores.

Getit Stores Pvt. Ltd. GYS Heights, Plot 10 and 11, 2nd and 3rd floor, C tower, Sector 125, Noida (Gautam Buddha Nagar), Uttar Pradesh – 201301

Dear Sirs,
Sub:Request to stop the advertisement of Kangana Ranaut shops at Deal Guru- askme bazaar denigratiing Hindu Saint/Saadhu
Hindu Janajagruti Samiti is an NGO doing social, religious and Nation building work. For details please refer our website http://www.hindujagruti.org where we have successfully campaigned and stopped denigrating advertisements.
Thousands of Hindus are customers of askmebazaar.com. We appreciate and buy your quality products. However we have received lot of complaints against you for hurting religious sentiments as you are showing Hindu Sadhu/Saint dancing and singing with a lady for advertising your shopping. Ref Link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYupvWgnDVA&feature=youtu.be
As per Hindu religion we should worship and get blessings from Sadhus-Saints. There spiritual teachings and knowledge is highest gift to the world. Due to their culture, sacrifice and Chaitanya millions of people have changed their lives to lead a blissful life. Walmiki, Vashisht, Naarad are some of the examples whom we respect and worship. However you have shown a Hindu Sadhu/Saint in saffron dress & a Kamandlu in hand dancing with a lady with jokes.
Thus there is insult and denigration of our Saints. This is hurting religious sentiments of Hindus which is an offense as per Indian Penal Code section 295A.
Further please note that you will not dare to show Jesus, Mohammad Paigambr, a Moulavi or Father dancing with a lady in your advertisement. You are purposely and intentionally denigrating Hindu Dharma with malafide intentions for which millions of Hindus will protest against you. Many Hindus will boycott your shopping products.
In view of above we earnestly request you to stop the advertisement and give unconditional apology for hurting religious sentiments of Hindus.
Yours faithfully,
( Shivaji Vatkar , Tel : [redacted])
For Hindu Janajagruti Samiti

A reproduction of the protest letter sent by Mr. Vatkar to Getit Stores. The retail company has not yet furnished a reply, according to Hindu religious rights group HJS.

Several companies, big and small, Indian and international, have been condemned by Hindu religious organisations in recent years for producing goods and advertisements that use Hindu symbols in a controversial manner. An American clothes and furnishing retailer was twice complained against after selling clothing items depicting Hindu deities. Several Indian advertisers and Bollywood movies have also been slated for their depiction of gods and goddesses for commercial gain.

SOURCES/VIDEO CREDIT:
Facebook, Facebook Inc. https://www.facebook.com/
“Ask me bazaar.com remains adamant against HJS’ appeal to stop Hindu sage’s denigration !” – Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (21 August 2014) http://www.hindujagruti.org/news/20389.html
askmebazaar.com, AskMeBazaar http://www.askmebazaar.com/
“ABOUT US” – askmebazaar.com, AskMeBazaar http://www.askmebazaar.com/about.php