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This is a must-see. The beautifully made infographic animated movie "It's Time for Real / Eat Local, Eat Real" highlights the increasing tendency of food importation, and how this phenomenon influences the economy, the environment and our neighborhoods. The message is mainly meant for Canadians, but certainly applies universally.

The movie, with a graphical style similar to the Stranger than Fiction opening scene, is part of the campaign Eat Real, Eat Local [eatrealeatlocal.ca], by the Unilever brand Hellman's. More information about the design process and creation of the movie can be found at the Glossy project page:

"We all found the statistics pretty eye opening. I think everyone involved changed the way we buy our food. Yoho's wife had a baby girl in the middle of the project, and I grew a playoff beard which I've been reluctant to shave (just superstitious I guess). Challenges early on were the levels of legal approval the team at Unilever and Ogilvy had to go through on all the stats. Everyone wanted to make sure that the information was fair and irrefutable. All the food in the shoot was Canadian, which is no small challenge in spring. I don't think I've ever been hugged by agency and their clients in twenty years in the business. That was definitely a high point."

You can watch the video below.

Thnkx Leah!


Inventive and entertaining use of product to illustrate the numbers. Would have been more motivating to see cost breakdowns between "cheap" products and otherwise thereby giving viewers a better picture of the call to action.

Wed 15 Jul 2009 at 2:40 AM

Good video, unfortunately, it is a shame that the company exorting people to "Eat Real, Eat Local" is one of the largest international companies in the world and that the Hellmann's brand can be found on 4 continents. Maybe everyone should try some locally produced mayonnaise too?

Wed 15 Jul 2009 at 3:08 AM
Liam Bennett

You're welcome! I love motion infographics pieces.

Liam makes a rather wry point, too.

Wed 15 Jul 2009 at 3:23 PM

Nicely made video, but is very misleading (at least in economic sense). Importing food (or 'losing the ability to produce' as the video calls it) is a form of division of labor which improves efficiency and welfare of the people in any country. I think international trade is beneficial to both the importer (who can save on money, which can be used in more productive ways to improve personal as well as community welfare) and exporter (who get a market for their produce, thereby increasing income, and thereby standard of living).

It should be worth noting that if Ontario imports $4 billion more than it imports, there is a very good reason why the exporters are accepting so much Canadian money. This money can only be used to directly or indirectly purchase Canadian goods and services. As an extreme case, if Canada stopped exporting everything, it will be equivalent to a ban on imports because no one would be willing to accept Canadian Dollars (which would be worthless). Indeed, a prominent economist demonstrated that any restriction on import is equivalent to restriction on export and vice versa.

It is indeed saddening that many farmers struggle to stay afloat because they cannot compete in terms of price with imports. However, I reject the deduction that this means we should subsidize them with money. The reason for not being able to compete can be various (like weather, poor farming practices, economy of scale, etc.). Such subsidies will only lead to incentives for people to take up agriculture as a profession which is already suffering because of prevailing conditions, further increasing the burden on the consumers.

It is worth introspecting that if on an average the food travels 4500 kms before reaching the destination, how is it still cheaper than local grown food? There are lot of inefficiencies underneath. If you think it is because of foreign government subsidies, think again. Take the case of corn, which is imported from US where it is heavily subsidized by tax-payer money. In simple terms, the American tax-payers are paying to make the corn cheaper for the Canadians. Isn't it great that someone is working so hard for Canada for free? I think Canada should actually encourage such practices and increase the standard of living by leaps and bounds. Of course, local grown food will be fresher when it reaches the market and sure gives imported food a run for its money in terms of value per dollar. So the only way the imports can compete is by still beating the quality by being cheaper. Those who prefer freshness (or taste) pick the local grown, and those who are tight on cash, prefer the imports. Placing value on comfort isn't exactly a modern concept. We have done it forever.

Fri 17 Jul 2009 at 10:40 AM

The way I see it, if Hellmann's has farms on 4 continents, it's pretty likely that their mayo won't have traveled over 4k km to get to your fridge.

Fri 17 Jul 2009 at 2:36 PM

To sit and create something like this -- visuals are stunning by the way -- that deep down inside you know is a sham is a perfect example of irresponsible use of creativity.

It's Time for Real talks about everything but how real the food is. The best place to start, and end, would be with Hellmann's mayo. You'd have a nosebleed just by thinking how far from being real food that mayo is.

It talks about local but doesn't mention that even local food can be sprayed with pesticides and use chemical fertilizer which would mean that along with your local food you are also ingesting harmful chemicals.

"Local" is not enough. "Real" is another euphamism used for food exploit. To the same extent that "fresh" and "natural" are.

Just another sheer humbug from our folks in agribusiness.

Again, visuals are amazing but content is deceptive. I'd rather see it crap and honest.

Sat 18 Jul 2009 at 4:56 AM

Certainly an interesting visualization, has anyone used 'it's food for thought' comment yet? ;-)

Tue 21 Jul 2009 at 3:33 PM

The comments of Ambuj Saxena need refutation. Assuming most of the facts are correct, the real flaw in the reasoning is the strict equation of food and money.

As soon as you assign a single monetary value to food, you have the problem that imports make sense. But this is clearly not the case: food has values along many dimensions. The movie mentions production independence and the strength of local farming entities. There are also aesthetic qualities, food safety, nutritional issues, and other complex systemic issues. The loss of farmland to urban sprawl, for instance, is an opportunity cost and it can hardly be easily measured, but most certainly never reversed.

I don't see the movie calling for subsidizing farm products, but that certainly is a "solution" that is talked about. It makes the mistake: it assumes there is a way to value food in monetary terms alone and that is all we need to know. So I agree on this point.

Cheaper is not better. Inefficient is sometimes just fine, thank you.

The video is stunning and beautiful, and it is not misleading, at least if your values extend beyond your wallet.

Thu 23 Jul 2009 at 2:10 AM
Lon Thomas

I think, we all agree that this video is well executed. And I really don't want to sound like a sour spoil-sport, but as so often with productions by advertising agencies, it's saddening how little attention as been paid to the accuracy of the statistical sources of this film (and I'm even more amazed that NOBODY here even noticed this).

In the following I will provide an easily verifyable example. If this example was the only time they got the facts wrong it would not be worth mentioning it, but they pretty much got most facts wrong:

On their website they have a menu point 'eat seasonally' where they will tell you which food products are grown locally around you.

Let's suppose I live in Nunavut, a state as large as western Europe and 30'000 inhabitants. Climate and Culture of Nunavut is similar to Greenland, meaning that you can farm: sheep, reindeer, potatos, blueberries and cranberries.

But if I select Nunavut on that website, it will return: Apples (really?), Blueberries (yes!), Nectarines (?!), ... , Watermelon (Did I global warming arrive in Nunavut earlier?!). In the meat section I'm in vain looking for the reindeer / caribou, but they are offering me beef (which has to be transported at least 3000-4000 km if it is from Canada).

Interestingly this is not a 'glitch' in that menu, if you select other states the offered fruits and vegetables do change.

It would take longer to debunk other claims as others ar not necessarily wrong but utterly misleading in such a huge country like Canada.

Fri 24 Jul 2009 at 6:22 PM

One needs to be really careful that "food miles" is not a disguised form of protectionism that is not in the interests of either consumers or the environment. See, for example, the following June 2007 article from the Telegraph which covers scientific research on the subject: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1553456/Greener-by-miles.html

Sun 02 Aug 2009 at 9:09 AM
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