The Coon Cheese Dilema


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Readers may be aware that the name given to this food product many years ago has come into disrepute because of a conceived connection to a derogatory word used in the past to insult certain members of society.

Now all reasonable, thinking persons will be against anything that hurts or denigrates others. Most live their lives in love or at least respect thy neighbour’s manner. Sometimes this fact is forgotten in the outrage expressed over perceived injustices. In the case of the ‘Cheese insult,’ I think this just might be the case. As I understand the situation the product was named after the guy who invented the production process. Common sense would surely tell you that a company who named their product with a title that could alienate a large percentage of their client base had to be, well, not very commercially acute.

But, having put that forward as a personal opinion, we must view the fact that the name does have connotations with a term of abuse and as such may be open to review in the context of the public domain. Now as I see it at present several parties need to be considered to affect a solution. Firstly there is the manufacturer who through no fault of their own has inherited the name Coon. Saputo, is the Canadian dairy company who bought out the Australian dairy producer Murray Goulburn that used the name in our local marketplace.

Now, why you ask would a Canadian company get into the Australian dairy industry? Well, that’s a story in its own right, but in a nutshell, the reasons are as follows. The dairy industry in Canada is unable to compete with the much larger and more efficient US equivalent. If left unaided the smaller Canadian operators would wither and leave consumers without a local alternative, plus it would put locals out of work. So, the Canadian government now gives subsidies and assistance to their local industry. This is maybe not a bad thing however but it does contravene all ideas of free trade so beloved of modern political thought. Now the Canadian government, unlike those in some other jurisdictions is a bit savvy. Not wishing to face a bottomless pit of subsidies they put a cap on how large the local industry could grow based on assistance programs. As a result of this cap, the Canadian dairy companies can only expand business by going international, away from their local subsidised market.

So, where to go for these profitable companies? Well, Australia is a laid back place and has a decent local market plus a mammoth market on its doorstep – China; lots of growth there maybe. Why not grab one of those half-asleep Aussie mobs and get rich on it. This is what Saputo did, paying a price that the locals thought was very generous and not to be missed. All’s then well until they run into the present dilemma. Now how to fix the current marketing problem? I reckon it can be done with a very minimum of disturbance. How? – Well, the word ‘Coon’ can be changed to ‘Moon’. As a brand name, it easily comes to mind. It is innocuous and offends no one. In fact it brings to mind pleasant connotations – think of all the lovely music and poetry wedded to the name. Also up until 1969 when Neil Armstrong and his Apollo 11 crew reported otherwise, there was a body of thought that the Moon was actually made of cheese.

As far as I know, no other dairy companies are using it so no problems with offending trademarks or copyright. Now if the manufacturer boxed really clever and maintained the packaging to remain exactly the same size, shape and colour plus leave the products in the same place on supermarket shelves many buyers and fans of the cheese would not even notice the change. In fact the manufacturer could just overprint the labels or affix stickers over the C with an M if they wanted to really save costs. As an additional attraction if buyers ever got fed up with the cheese they could be said to be ‘over the Moon’ and thereby left happy anyway!

From the consumer’s point of view, the ones who noticed anything different anyway, they could experience minimal interference to their shopping and eating habits. On top of which if they had become socially offended by the name, given the news and media coverage of the matter they could feel vindicated and continue to be happy to enjoy the product in all innocence.

That only leaves the rest of us. Maybe there is folk who don’t eat dairy or maybe prefer a different cheese. (In my own case I much prefer Wensleydale – being a long time fan of ‘Wallace and Gromit’).

All us ‘others’ who have been left wondering why some people seem to read things into issues that were never really there in the first place could be satisfied with the outcome.

Far be it from me to suggest such but if the new name were to be taken up then it could hint at a suitable response to the makers of mischief – that they had been ‘Mooned’.