Monday, December 12, 2011

Malta and the Childhood of a Ghanaian Poet

Nana Yaw Sarpong, a Ghanaian journalist, student, writer and poet, recalls in his blog the role that Malta Guinness played in his childhood. 

"If you are a Ghanaian, Malta Guinness will not be a strange drink to you. I remember as a young lad, whenever I was faced with making a choice for a drink, I chose Malt over fanta or Coca cola or the rest. My belief was that Malt was more nutritious than the other soft drinks.

But my belief in the nutritional values of Malta Guinness at the time was based on fact. Each time my parents bought me Malta Guiness, I turned to the back of the bottle and read the ingredients. I never knew why I did so, really. But I kept going back to it. I took interest also in the fact that the number and range of vitamins contained in the drink were written boldly and they appeared all over the bottle. It did something to me, even as a little boy.

However, things have changed. I bought a Malta Guinness a few days ago only to find my shock. There was nothing at the back of the bottle like before. The list of nutrients were also gone except for some minute information for the consumer. I was hugely disappointed! It was not for my childhood fancy, but something more like consumer confidence.

I realized that the information on the bottle was good for the buyer. At least in practice, you could know what you were drinking."

After reading this blog, I wondered why  Guinness Malta would remove their list of ingredients, specifically in Africa? The most obvious reason is reduced production cost. But because malt-based soft drinks typically contain corn syrup, and GMO corn is banned in most of Africa, removing the list could also be a clever marketing strategy. If children today grow up no longer expecting to know what is in their “healthy” soft-drink, the company can avoid future buyers' prejudice to GMO corn syrup if it should some day be legalized.
I was also struck by the note of pride in this account. Here, a child gets a good dose of self-esteem when  he chooses a healthy drink, thanks to informative advertising. But it is clear that the next generation of children have fewer clues as to what is healthful and what is not. They cannot experience that same self-affirming moment when choosing to drink Malta.

In the US, presently, marketing strategies urge adults to have a five-hour energy drink in the form of a 2 oz liquid injection, while artificially colored and flavored “water personalizers” are the newest fad for teens. The best-selling energy drink world-wide, caffeine rich Red Bull (which in 2009 in Austria was found to contain trace amounts of cocaine), is advertised in athletic tournaments and on sports and adventure equipment. It would seem that healthful ingredients are not a selling point when it comes to the  marketing of mainstream beverages. Rather, consumers jump at the promise of energy, sports and flash.

The active decision to consume healthful food and beverages makes us feel dignified and proud. In truly valuing our own health we value life itself. That intrinsic, unifying value is the mystery of "Mother Food" that warms and nourishes us. 



  1. I thought you will speak about Ghanian poetry and you spoke about drinks. lol

  2. I suppose, yes, I do find his reflections on his childhood to be that of the spirit of a poet. Very moving to me.