Marks & Spencer (aka M&S) is a major British retailer, with over 895 stores in more than 40 territories around the world. It is the largest clothing retailer in the UK, as well as being an upmarket food retailer, and as of 2008, the 43rd largest retailer in the world. Despite its huge and undoubtable success, M&S is unable to recruit even one person with knowledge of the Eastern Mediterranean into their Product Development department.
Which would be fine, and not at all a concern for anyone, if only M&S weren't so keen to develop the "World Flavours" lunchtime food range allowing you to take an appetizing international journey of taste without even leaving your desk. Problem is, this journey is so unpredictable, you don't always end up where you planned when you bought your food pack. In particular, you never end up in Greece.
The good bods at M&S, however, are blissfully unaware of this little detail. According to the press release, you can imagine yourself lunching on a sun soaked Greek island with "A taste of Greece" - a feta-style salad with houmous, falafel and sun-dried tomato breadsticks. Which is all well and good, only there's no such thing as feta-style salad, houmous and falafel are unknown in Greece, and sun-dried tomato breadsticks, although not exactly unheard of, are unlikely to be found on any sun soaked Greek island taverna, except for the really pretentious ones.
In any case, feta-style salad and fancy breadsticks I can accept. Houmous and falafel though? That's like putting together a "taste of USA" pack made up of Ploughman's sandwiches and Cornish pasties.
At first, I thought perhaps they're getting Greece mixed up with Cyprus (it wouldn't be the first time) but my Cypriot friends confirmed that, although houmous is indeed known in Cyprus, falafel is something that one would expect to find in Egypt, Lebanon or other Middle Eastern countries.
This begs the question: what is the purpose to taking two products that are nothing to do with Greece and putting them in Greek packaging, complete with Cycladic church? Surely anyone who likes houmous and falafel will eat them even if M&S calls them "houmous and falafel"? Not to mention anyone who's been to Greece is no more likely to associate the country with houmous and falafel than they are to associate it with chorizo and mozzarella.
Am I perhaps missing a great marketing strategy here? Is it a ploy to bring the Levant closer to Europe via the British taste bud? The mind boggles.
Last Saturday my friends and I went to the local M&S to search for this wonder product. Sure enough the Greece-in-Lebanon packs exist! We only found the mini-pack (sans feta-style salad and breadsticks) but our trip wasn't wasted. While looking around the shelves, we spotted another equally mind-blowing product: olives from Halkadiki.
What's wrong with that? I hear you ask. Well, what's wrong with it is that there's no such area called Halkadiki. The name is Halkidiki. And there are no alternative spellings either. Calling Halkidiki Halkadiki is like calling London Londin, or New York New Yark, or Sydney Sydnay. It's a huge, massive, stupid spelling mistake. We thought it was so funny that they'd misspelled the name of the product, we took a photo of the jar. The reason the photo is a bit blurred is because we couldn't stop laughing.
Then we looked at the lid. Which is supposed to say "olives with sun dried tomatoes" in Greek. Unfortunately it doesn't say that at all. It says "olives with sun wharmied tomatoes" - i.e. not only using the wrong word for "sun dried" but forming it wrongly too, against all grammatical and spelling rules. It's not just an unfortunate translation, it's a word that doesn't exist and couldn't ever exist. My guess is that it was made up by someone who'd studied Ancient Greek at college and had WAY TOO MUCH confidence in their ability to create new words in modern Greek.
Honestly, I can't decide which of these blunders I find more offensive: the Taste of Greece pack that seems to confuse Greece with Lebanon, the Halkadiki-spellchecker-fail olives jar, or the make-a-Greek-word lid! That M&S managed to make all three in just two products is so shocking one has to wonder if it was done on purpose.