Companies playing to white audience

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By Christine Phrakaysone

Most products sold in the Western World are developed with the White consumer in mind.

It’s a fact of life that has come under fire by minorities over the years, but companies have been slow to change.

Contact lenses, for example, have never suited for Asian eyes, especially Chinese people.

“While Caucasian eyes tend to flatten rapidly, Asian eyes flatten more slowly, resulting in a steeper periphery, so that a conventional contact lens sits lower on an Asian eye,” an Australian research team concluded.

The study has led to the development of a contact lens specifically for Asians.

And while the development of the lens will likely mean huge profits for its maker, the minority market remains relatively untapped. This is because companies tend to presume their consumers are white and from a specific class, either middle or upper, says York University communications professor Elizabeth Seaton.

“It’s not that the product is deliberately coded as being white, [but it is] only speaking to whites.”

There are, however, companies trying to develop products for minority consumers. U.S cereal maker General Mills Inc. unveiled four cereals last year named Para Su Familia (for your family), “developed specially to the taste and nutrition needs of Hispanics,” company spokesman Greg Zimprich says.

The cereals are lightly sweetened, reflecting the tastes of Hispanics who took part in focus groups. Frutis, for example, tastes like fruity Cheerios.

At Hallmark Canada, cards also now printed in languages such as German, Italian, Polish and Chinese. “They’re looking for a total package, which incorporates their tradition, values and tastes,” says Jon Clague, Hallmark’s v.p. of product marketing.

The colour of adhesive bandages has long frustrated those whose matched darker hues. That’s why in 1997 U.S.-based Identity Products Ltd. created Ebon-Aide, a line of bandages that comes in five shades.

Mattel has introduced three minority dolls, Latina Barbies, her friend Teresa, and Kira, and Asian doll. “Mattel has been on the forefront of letting young girls known we’re aware of the situation where race concerned,” spokesman Danny Palumbo says.


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