Coke is the last [company] that needs government support to promote their products.
—Ben Kramer, chef
A program to market Manitoba foods has some culinary critics challenging the definition of local food.
In April, 2012, The Manitoba Food Processors Association (MFPA) launched Buy Manitoba to "support growers, producers and processors in Manitoba."
Participants use the Buy Manitoba brand to market their product, as long as it is grown, raised or made in the province, or at least 85 per cent of its main ingredients are made here.
When some of the first marketing efforts used the word "local", two local chefs were not impressed. Ben Kramer of Elements Restaurant and Alexander Svenne of Bistro 7 1/4 have both gone online to question how some of the 65 participating companies qualified as local.
Chef Ben Kramer (Ian McCausland)
In one of several critical tweets, Kramer challenged the program for including Coca-Cola. Though the pop is bottled in Winnipeg, Kramer says the only local ingredient is the city's water.
"It's a huge stretch. Coke is the last [company] that needs government support to promote their products," he says.
While the MFPA and the 65 participants pay for most of Buy Manitoba's marketing initiative, the provincial government has chipped in $742,100. Some of the companies participating include Bothwell Cheese, Granny's Poultry, John Russell Honey.
"All it takes is one to water down the message," Kramer says.
Gemma Manangan, Buy Manitoba's program manager, says Coke meets the program's criteria and employs a lot of Manitobans in the food industry.
While the local designation is an important one among many foodies, there's no universal definition. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency defines produce as local if it's grown within a 50 kilometer radius of where its sold.
Manangan says Buy Manitoba doesn't use the word local for branding anymore. "That's something we've been more conscious about and not using that in our marketing materials."
Constance Popp (Robin Summerfield)
Winnipeg chocolatier Constance Popp, who is a Buy Manitoba member, doesn't want the debate to harm a program intended to help Manitoba producers.
"It's really hard to have a product made here from start to finish in Manitoba," Popp said.
"There's a lot of snobbery around Manitoba food right now and I just want to say 'Come on guys, lighten up a bit.'"
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