By macleans.ca - Monday, June 6, 2011 - 0 Comments
Don Shroader to receive nearly $6 million over two years
Outgoing Tim Hortons CEO Don Shroader will receive a hefty severance package, according to regulatory findings released on Monday. Shroader, who stepped down late last month after a 20-year career at Tim Hortons, will receive $5,750,000 in severance pay. Appointed as CEO in 2008, he will get $2,250,000 up front, and the rest will be paid out over the next two years. As part of the severance deal, Shroader is prohibited from discussing his reasons for stepping down. He will remain as an advisor for Tim Hortons, and will continue to serve as on the Tim Horton Children’s Foundation Board. For this work, he will be paid $175,000 a year, and will receive medical and dental benefits for the next two years. Shroader’s resignation has raised doubts about the company’s international expansion efforts. Fifty of its 600 U.S. outlets were recently closed.
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 10:45 AM - 7 Comments
How the high-end brand aims to capture the everyman market
In the 1991 comedy L.A. Story, Steve Martin’s character, Harris, memorably poked fun at the coffee house culture Starbucks was introducing to Americans: “I’ll have a half double decaffeinated half-caf, with a twist of lemon.” At the time, Starbucks had just 116 stores in the United States. Two decades later, it has ballooned to nearly 17,000 stores in 50 countries. But there still remains a sizable chunk of the coffee-drinking population that’s wary of buying their coffee from the Seattle-based giant, either because it’s too expensive, too fussy or too inconvenient (believe it or not, some coffee drinkers still find it easier to brew a pot at home).
So, with growth opportunities for its flagship brand in North America waning, Starbucks decided last year to overhaul the Seattle’s Best Coffee brand it acquired in the U.S. eight years ago (three years ago in Canada) for less than US$100 million, and signed deals to sell brewed coffee in Subway restaurants, Burger Kings, AMC movie theatres and just about anywhere else it’s often difficult to find a decent cup. Starbucks’ CEO has set a lofty annual revenue goal of $1 billion for the division.
In Canada, Starbucks is now going a step further with a pilot project that has put Seattle’s Best branded “coffee bars” inside four Wal-Mart Supercentres, with another four to be opened over the next year. The idea is to provide a slightly cheaper Starbucks-type beverage, such as lattes and mochas, to people who don’t associate coffee with overstuffed furniture and faux jazz. “It’s a new concept for us. They’re coffee bars with a walk-up window on one side and a bar to linger at on the other,” says Jenny McCabe, a Starbucks spokesperson. “We think we can simplify premium coffee and make it really accessible. Wal-Mart is not a place that most people would have thought to look for premium coffee.”
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 12:09 PM - 0 Comments
Abrupt departure leaves company casting for a replacement
Tim Hortons announced on Wednesday that its president and CEO, Don Schroeder, has abruptly left the company. He will be replaced on a temporary basis by predecessor Paul House. It’s not clear what prompted Schroeder’s departure, though one unnamed analyst speculated to CBC News that the split wasn’t amicable. Tim Hortons stock price dropped by more than four per cent after its quarterly results, released two weeks ago, fell short of analysts’ expectations.
By Erica Alini - Monday, May 2, 2011 at 11:05 AM - 10 Comments
Tim Hortons markets its new ‘healthier’ beverages as having ‘real fruit.’ Does sugary juice count?
Since March, Tim Hortons has adorned its coffee shops with gigantic pictures of bananas, strawberries and other berries for the launch of its “healthier” snack: Real Fruit Smoothies. Available as mixed berry or strawberry banana, they contain only 130 calories (for a small serving), and half a cup of fruit (equal to one of the seven to 10 servings doctors recommend adults consume every day). A closer look at nutritional values, though, reveals the drinks contain no fibre or protein, which means that there is no fresh fruit actually being thrown in the blender, says registered dietician Nicole Springle.
In fact, the “real” fruit comes from purees and juices, confirms a Tim Hortons spokeswoman. That doesn’t have the same health benefits of the fresh stuff, says Springle, because those purees and juices don’t come with the fibre and protein that help slow down the pace at which we assimilate the sugar that fruit naturally contains. Hortons’ Real Fruit Smoothies have 30 grams of sugar. That’s more than the sugar content of any Tim Hortons doughnut.
The marketing of healthy beverages has been a controversial issue. Unsubstantiated claims, from the wildly unlikely ones promising help with heart disease, erectile dysfunction and prostate cancer, to the simple “healthy” label placed on certain drinks, have attracted a slew of lawsuits against the food industry. In January, a British advertising watchdog banned Coca-Cola from using the word “nutritious” to market its sports drink, Vitaminwater. The company has landed in court in the U.S. and Canada as well over Vitaminwater’s marketing. The drink allegedly contains about 30 grams of sugar, as much as a Tim Hortons’ Smoothie.
By Michael Friscolanti - Monday, April 18, 2011 at 6:10 AM - 12 Comments
A court battle over frozen doughnuts offers a rare glimpse inside the books of Tim Hortons franchises
Anyone who has ever waited in a winding Tim Hortons lineup (i.e. every Canadian with a pulse) has shared the same fantasy: imagine owning this place. Brew. Sell. Repeat. Count. Ronald Joyce—the man who built “Timmy’s” into the national icon it is today—confirmed as much in his autobiography. “If there was ever a sure thing,” he wrote, “owning a Tim Hortons franchise was it.”
Joyce’s book doesn’t provide specific dollar figures, and the company isn’t in the habit of disclosing the annual earnings of individual franchisees. But a nasty court battle in Ontario has provided a rare glimpse of exactly how much cash the average Hortons store owner pockets in a year: $265,558.That’s 170,000 large cups of profit. Or, more fittingly, 332,000 frozen donuts.
As Maclean’s reported in September, a small group of angry franchisees has filed a $1.95-billion proposed class-action lawsuit against the Hortons head office, claiming the company’s decision to scrap in-store deep fryers and introduce “par-baked” goods (manufactured at a warehouse, then trucked frozen to stores) has taken a gigantic bite out of their bottom lines. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for this month, but it’s been postponed until August.
By Jason Kirby - Monday, March 14, 2011 at 10:06 AM - 9 Comments
A reader sent us a photo of a new lid that debuted at his local Timmies
As Maclean’s noted two weeks ago, legions of Tim Hortons coffee sippers regularly complain the company’s lids have fallen way behind the competition. They leak, and the tabs never stay open. It’s clearly a hot-button issue—our original story is the most-read article on Macleans.ca this year. So behold, the new Tim Hortons coffee lid (sort of). This week Doug Stitt, an Ohio resident and Tim Hortons regular, sent us a photo of a new lid that debuted at his local Timmies. Stitt, who spoke to Maclean’s for our original story, was told the new lid is part of an “experiment” and was only available in one size: extra-large. A company spokesman says the new lid is being test-marketed for specialty drinks (though Stitt got his with just a regular coffee), but the company has good news for dribble-sufferers: Tim Hortons is working with its supplier on a redesign of its current flip-tab lids, which will hit stores later this year.
By Jason Kirby - Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 11:41 AM - 195 Comments
Why is Tim Hortons, with its leaky coffee cups, sitting out the race to build a better lid?
Every morning millions of bleary-eyed students, factory workers and cubicle dwellers are united in their quest for a Tim Hortons “fix.” Well, that, and the unending frustration that is the #&@% Tim Hortons coffee lid. You know what we’re talking about. The little plastic tab that’s supposed to tear back and fit snugly into the notch but tends to rip at an angle instead, leaving a jagged edge. Even if the tab tears properly, it’s always popping back up anyway. And the leaks!!! The primary function of a lid is simple enough—keep liquid and heat in the cup—yet as the dampened masses of the Tim Hortons nation can attest, the company’s lids seem specifically designed to liberate one’s beverage from the cup and send it dribbling down your hand and onto your shirt. We’ve all been there. Only, it doesn’t have to be this way.
The coffee lid has gone through a revolution in recent years. You can see that in the superior lids on offer from Tim Hortons’ many rivals. Every year dozens of new disposable lid “inventions” are filed with patent offices. Never have there been so many enterprising and reliable lid designs for restaurants to choose from—lids with raised and contoured spouts, ones that rotate to open and close, anti-spill lids engineered with chambers to keep coffee from leaking out, and even “smart” lids that function like a French press or that change colour with the temperature of your drink.
Yet, through it all, Tim Hortons has sat squarely on the sidelines. Now, even as Tim Hortons celebrates the 25th anniversary of its Roll Up The Rim contest this week, a grassroots campaign is gaining steam among Facebook users and bloggers who all share the same unrelenting message for the company: ordering a double double shouldn’t have to mean dribble dribble.
Doug Stitt, an American living in Columbus, Ohio, is one of them, though until recently he thought he was alone in his frustration. Shortly after Stitt moved to the city in the late 1990s, he fell in love with Tim Hortons coffee. The chain had only just opened up there, one of several beachheads in its effort to crack the U.S. market. Since then, Stitt, who works in design and marketing, has been a regular, stopping off at least three times a week to start his day. But as much as he craves the coffee, he loathes the lids. “They’re not just bad in one way, they’re bad in every way,” he says.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 11:45 AM - 7 Comments
After years of holding out, coffee chain announces change to payment policy
After years of taking your cash and credit cards only, Tim Hortons has now added the debit card to its payment repetoire. The well-known coffee and doughnut restaurateur said Tuesday it will now accept Interac debit cards for payment. This change comes as part of a contract renewal with payment processor Chase Paymentech Solutions. “Chase Paymentech works with Tim Hortons to evaluate innovative processing technologies that allow us to offer safe and convenient payment options to our guests,” said Roland Walton, chief operations officer with Tim Hortons. With some 3,700 locations across Canada and the United States, Tim Hortons is one of the largest restaurant chains in North America.
By Chris Sorensen - Monday, November 15, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 3 Comments
Sheryl Sandberg has bold plans to transform the social networking site into an advertising juggernaut
Sheryl Sandberg has an impressive knowledge of Canadiana for someone who had never set foot in the country until last week. The chief operating officer of Facebook may have been gripping a grande-sized beverage from Starbucks, but that didn’t stop her from casually dropping in references to Tim Hortons coffee and donuts during an interview with Maclean’s last week, as though it was the local coffee shop in Palo Alto, Calif., where Facebook is headquartered.
But while Sandberg, who grew up in Miami, may have never tasted a Timbit, she does know off the top of her head that 1.2 million Facebook users have said they “like” Tim Hortons’ Facebook page. She has a similar barrage of statistics at the ready for other Canadian brands, including Molson, Indigo and, for some reason, Veterans Affairs Canada. Because it’s close to Remembrance Day? “I follow the business really carefully,” she says with a smirk.
No kidding. While Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 26-year-old CEO and co-founder, has been in the spotlight lately thanks to the box office success of The Social Network, an unflattering film about Facebook’s early days, it’s the 41-year-old Sandberg who is now leading the charge to transform the Internet phenomenon, with more than 500 million global users, into a money-making colossus.
By Kate Lunau - Thursday, September 9, 2010 at 8:40 AM - 0 Comments
How well do you know your donuts?
It wasn’t so long ago that every donut store fried or baked its treats in the back of the shop, usually bringing a baker in overnight. In the morning, customers would stop by to grab some donuts and breathe in that fresh bakery smell. But times have changed: Tim Hortons is embroiled in a legal battle over its Always Fresh system which, according to a recent affidavit, sees donuts and other goods baked or fried at a facility in Brantford, Ont., then frozen, boxed, and shipped to the stores. Only then are they baked to completion, glazed and filled.
By macleans.ca - Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 9:55 AM - 225 Comments
The bitter battle inside the country’s favourite coffee shop
On a recent Thursday morning, as thousands of Canadian coffee lovers waited in line for their daily fix of Tim Hortons, the company’s head office unveiled its latest quarterly earnings report. The figures confirmed—yet again—that when your brand is the closest thing to a national religion, filling the collection plate is never a problem.
Total revenue: $639.9 million. Total profit: $94.1 million.
That same morning, Aug. 12, Hortons executives made another lucrative announcement: the company had just sold its 50 per cent stake in Maidstone, the Brantford, Ont., bakery that mass-produces donuts and muffins for every “Tim’s” in the country. Originally launched as a joint venture in 2001, Maidstone now belongs to the Swiss food giant Aryzta AG, which paid a whopping $475 million for Hortons’ half of the operation (and has agreed to continue supplying the chain with fritters and biscuits until at least 2016).
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, March 8, 2010 at 11:48 AM - 80 Comments
Jim Flaherty is your average Canadian suburbanite. Sure, sometimes he lets his hairdresser put too much gel in his hair, but when it comes right down to it, he’s just a guy. A Canadian. Like you. Like me.
Indeed, so committed is Mr. Flaherty to staying true to who he is and who he serves that, when necessary, he’ll commandeer a government plane and fly three hours, at a cost of something like $3,600, to a coffee shop in London, Ontario so he can meet with his fellow man while television cameras record the moment for posterity.
By Scott Feschuk - Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 11:00 AM - 2 Comments
Some see all the glory of the Games. To others they are an abomination. Both have a point.
With the beginning of the Olympics, the attention of the world is now ﬁxed squarely on Vancouver and Whistler, and you know what that means: this is the perfect time to steal the world’s stuff. Cover me while I swipe the Mona Lisa (thanks, I owe you one) and Coldplay’s instruments (now you owe me).
There are those who contend that the Olympics are an athletic Kumbaya to the world, a bonding experience in which we are all spiritually enriched by the pulse-pounding thrill of assorted Scandinavians proceeding downhill quadrennially. There are others who believe the Games are a folly, an abomination, a…a…a follomination!—not to mention a great way to keep in tip-top protestin’ shape between G8 meetings.
In truth, there are pros and cons to the Olympics. Let’s take a look:
By Cathy Gulli - Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
Tigers Woods, Tim Hortons, and others made their big comeback this year
He sank a 15-foot birdie to bag the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf tournament in the spring, making it his 66th PGA victory. It had been nearly a year since the super-athlete had enjoyed a big win, and Woods was ecstatic: “It’s been a while, but God, it felt good.” You can bet his competitors didn’t share the feeling.
Tims is officially a Canadian company again. The coffee giant has moved its operations base to Oakville, Ont., from Delaware—where it had been registered since Wendy’s burger chain bought it in 1995 (and spun it into an American subsidiary). But the move isn’t motivated by patriotism. Tim Hortons is taking advantage of Canada’s low corporate taxes. Canuck love comes cheap.
Robert Fowler, Louis Guay and Amanda Lindhout
After four months in al-Qaeda captivity, Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler and his aide Louis Guay were released. The pair had been working in Niger, where Fowler was a UN special envoy. The president of Burkina Faso helped negotiate their freedom, and some speculate a hefty ransom was paid. Another big payout was demanded for Alberta journalist Amanda Lindhout, who was held by Somalian fighters for 15 months. She was freed in November. Her family raised money to appease her abductors.
After battling drug addiction and getting a divorce, Whitney Houston has a new album called I Look To You. But all eyes have been on her: the American Music Academy gave Houston the international artist award in recognition of her global diva status. She also recently opened the new season of The Oprah Winfrey Show, where she belted out a moving rendition of Diane Warren’s I Didn’t Know My Own Strength to a blubbering audience. Houston told Winfrey that she got back into singing because “I needed my joy back.”
Belgian tennis player Kim Clijsters came out of retirement to win the U.S. Open. She quit two years ago because of injuries, then got married and had a baby. But Clijsters was invited to the tournament as a wild card. She nabbed the US$1.6-million prize, and became the first mom to take the championship in 29 years. “It’s the greatest feeling in the world being a mother,” Clijsters told the crowd when her 18-month-old daughter ran onto the court for a post-match celebration. Clijsters had planned nap time that day so they could be together. After all the excitement, mom must need a rest too.
Can a car whose top-selling days were in the 1980s and ’90s really return Ford to its glory days? CEO Alan Mulally believes the new and improved Taurus will do just that. Among the perks the company touts are that it has more durable paint than a Lexus, a “blind spot information system” that uses radar to detect nearby cars, and an “EcoBoost” engine that delivers more power without chewing through extra fuel. If only Ford could make gas 50 cents a litre again.
For the first time in 90 years, Fabergé—maker of those intricate Easter eggs for Russian royalty—has issued a collection of jewellery. It features a marine theme: there is a seahorse broach, shell earrings and a water-lily bracelet. The 100 gem-encrusted pieces range in price from $46,000 to $11 million. They can only be purchased online or at the Fabergé store in Geneva. CEO Mark Dunhill balks at the idea of multiple retail outlets: “If you are thinking of spending $1 million for a bracelet, why not have the designer come to you and show it to you on your yacht?”
She’s more famous than ever, thanks mostly to the Hollywood hit Julie & Julia. The film has catapulted Julia Child’s 752-page tome, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, to the top of the best-seller lists, 48 years after it was first published. Her other culinary bible, Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom, has been reprinted six times and is the second-bestselling cookbook in the U.S. An autobiography called My Life in France has been reprinted nine times, which makes going for seconds seem restrained.
Horses on Parliament Hill
The RCMP are once again allowed to ride horses in front of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. The clip-clopping was banned in 2007 for fear tourists would wind up hurt by suddenly spooked animals. Before that, Mounties on horseback were an Ottawa highlight for 30 years. Now, one officer stays in the saddle while another walks alongside the horse. If only we could control question period so easily.
Travelling music festival Lilith Fair will be resurrected next summer, a decade since the last all-female tour. Canadian crooner Sarah McLachlan, who founded the concert in 1997, is behind its revival. No word yet which celebrity songstresses are on the bill, but this time there’s a new angle, the “Lilith Local Talent Search,” to find upcoming stars. Women’s work is never done.
They were the best of times, and they were the worst of times. Here is what’s back: the Winter Olympics in Canada; Petro-Canada’s commemorative Olympic glasses; Michael Jackson’s music; and a remake of The A-Team. But many other remnants of that decade would be better forgotten: provincial deficits, shoulder pads and skinny pants. Thankfully, acid wash has not made a resurgence. Yet.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 5, 2009 at 1:09 PM - 28 Comments
Erin Weir goes to Tim Hortons’ regulatory filings in search of the motivating factors of corporate tax breaks.
Perhaps more importantly, Tim Hortons became an American corporation when it merged with Wendy’s. Even after separation, it was locked into a tax-sharing agreement with Wendy’s.
When that agreement recently expired, there was no longer a reason to keep Tim Hortons organized as a US corporation when some 90% of its revenue is generated in Canada. In particular, it did not make sense for the company’s entire business, which is overwhelmingly conducted in Canadian dollars, to be taxed and analyzed in US dollars.
Therefore, it seems highly probable that Tim Hortons would have reorganized as a Canadian corporation even had Canada simply kept its corporate tax rates at US levels. If so, the Canadian government might have received a similar temporary boost in tax revenue from this reorganization without the ongoing loss of future tax revenue.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, October 2, 2009 at 10:57 AM - 80 Comments
As a direct result of Conservative action to cut corporate taxes, Tim Hortons — perhaps Canada’s best known coffee shop — is announcing that they will be moving their head office to Canada. Tim Hortons’ choice to make Canada their new base of operations will not only create new jobs and generate economic activity, but it also sends a clear message to other companies around the globe: Canada is a great place to do business.
As noted previously, economist Erin Weir has posed two questions about the move. First, will it mean any additional tax revenue for the country? Second, will it mean any additional jobs in this country?
So I asked. And here, via email, are the answers from Tim Hortons’ head office. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 29, 2009 at 12:47 PM - 39 Comments
Tim Hortons spokesman David Morelli said that while the company expected some interest, executives were “flattered by the reaction to what we thought was a pretty bland corporate announcement.”
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, September 28, 2009 at 8:37 PM - 38 Comments
The Scene. You’ll forgive the Prime Minister if he’s a bit shy, if he’s just not that interested in the traditional trappings of leading your very own G8 nation.
So it was last week, with the best and worst of the international community gathering in New York, that Stephen Harper could stomach but one highfalutin dinner before jetting back home for a Tim Hortons run. And so it was today, with the business of Parliament resuming beneath the stained glass and chandeliers of the House of Commons, that Mr. Harper jetted off to furthest New Brunswick, where, as luck would have it, a lectern had been set up in front of an idle locomotive and a representative sample of Canadian blue collars.
There the Prime Minister found a crowd eager to hear him explain how well he was handling this economic unpleasantness and applaud his assurances thereof. Now, sure, here you may argue that the Prime Minister needn’t go to New Brunswick to find individuals willing to applaud his pronouncements on cue. Indeed, you might point out, the Canadian public pays something in the order of $157,000 to each of 142 individuals whose job it is to stand every so often in the House of Commons and do exactly that.
But then you would be ignoring the fact that those 142 individuals do not constitute even a majority of members of that august chamber. And the rest constitute an unruly collection of scoundrels and skeptics, many on the record as not entirely believing in the Prime Minister’s propensity for fulsomeness.
“The government reports to the people of Canada,” the Prime Minister’s press secretary observed over the weekend. And let it never again be said that the individuals who constitute this place in any way represent such Canadians. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, September 25, 2009 at 1:29 PM - 38 Comments
Erin Weir, an economist with the United Steelworkers, writes in to the Toronto Star to quibble slightly with the apparent joy expended on Tim Hortons’ return to Canada.
By reorganizing itself as a Canadian corporation for tax purposes, Tim Hortons will no longer pay American tax on its global profits. But it will pay no additional Canadian tax on its Canadian profits. There is no indication of Tim Hortons relocating any facilities or jobs to Canada.
This corporate reclassification appears to be the Prime Minister’s best or only example of what deep corporate tax cuts have achieved. If so, it suggests that these cuts provide essentially no public benefit.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 10:32 AM - 94 Comments
Susan Delacourt is taking a day off her duties at the Star each week to pursue a study of politics and consumerism. Suffice it to say then, she was tremendously pleased with the Prime Minister’s speech yesterday.
So while I guess while others may feel a bit squeamish about our PM ordering double-doubles and dipped donuts while the world, literally, moved on without him, I, for one, am grateful. The leader of our country has chosen to re-announce a three-month-old decision by a donut company instead of taking part in a conversation at the United Nations. In so doing, he’s given me a whole bunch of fodder for research about how politicians see us now as shoppers/eaters now instead of educated citizens. Thanks, PM.
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, September 23, 2009 at 4:36 PM - 86 Comments
If I ever get round to writing a book about this time in Ottawa, I may very well argue that this, in content, setting and context, is the quintessential speech of Stephen Harper’s premiership. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 22, 2009 at 4:12 PM - 25 Comments
The Prime Minister’s itinerary for tomorrow. No really.
11:30 a.m. – Prime Minister Stephen Harper will participate in a photo opportunity.
Tim Hortons Innovation Centre
226 Wyecroft Road
*Photo opportunity (cameras and photographers only)
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, July 20, 2009 at 11:54 AM - 2 Comments
Back now from a week in New York, arriving there just in time to see Tim Hortons take up residence in the urban, cosmopolitan mecca of North America. Sad to see a Canadian political analogy so swiftly undermined, but such is the cost of progress.
By Brian Bethune - Thursday, April 30, 2009 at 12:40 PM - 42 Comments
The author of ‘The End of Overeating’ heads to Canada
Dr. David Kessler’s The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable North American Appetite (McClelland & Stewart) is just one of a half-dozen recent books on modern food, in the sense of how it’s killing us. But Kessler’s stands out for a couple of reasons. One is who he is: head of the American Food and Drug Administration from 1990 to 1997; that is to say, a public health crusader appointed by Bush the Elder, who quickly became unpopular among Republicans and was confirmed in his post by Democratic President Bill Clinton. It was under Kessler’s watch that the FDA enacted regulations requiring standardized nutrition fact labels on food. (And he wasn’t afraid to act: Kessler once had over 100,000 L of concentrate-made orange juice seized because it was labeled “fresh.”) He also launched the FDA’s most concerted effort ever to regulate the tobacco industry.
So Kessler has considerable credibility when he discusses how the food industry hijacked our brains with three substances humans find as seductive as sex—salt, sugar and fat—and how the desire for them has overthrown thousands of years of conditioning to create an unprecedented culture of overeating. The ancient question, “Is food available?” used to mean, Kessler writes, “Are we facing famine?” But in modern North America it means, “Can I get food nearby?” and, more importantly, “Can I eat it anywhere, anytime?” The decline of meal structures, the blurring of distinctions between snacks and meals, combines with unhealthy yet addictive ingredients to create the dual engine that powers overeating. We now eat everywhere: in class, in business meetings, walking down the street. Everything else, from 24-hour availability to the vast portion sizes in restaurants, comes from that development. And the so-called French Paradox—meaning the enigma of how the French maintain lesser levels of obesity and heart disease than North Americans despite eating more fat—is not a matter of red wine or the type of fat involved, says Kessler, but because the French until very recently maintained tightly structured eating times. They ate, as we did two generations ago, three meals a day, period.
Kessler’s other claim to Canadian attention is that his publishers asked him to head North for a little CanCon. So, dedicated scientist that he is, Kessler crossed the border, loosened his belt and dropped in on, among others, Tim Hortons and Swiss Chalet. (He doesn’t write that he tried any poutine, but a reader can actually feel Kessler’s eyes widen as he describes the dish, not to mention Swiss Chalet’s offer to “poutinize” a customer’s fries for a mere $1.99.) The good news on the True North: “things aren’t as bad here as they are in the United States.” Not that they’re good, but an obesity rate of one-in-four beats the American one-in-three rate. Food portions in restaurants are not as large as in America, and “there was a homemade quality to most of the food” in a Jack Astor’s or Swiss Chalet. (That comment is more than a enough to fill a Canadian reader with appalled fascination over what he might find in a U.S. chain.) Essentially, we’re heading in the same “troubling direction” as our neighbour, Kessler concludes, “as the ingredients of conditioned hypereating are assembled.” That means Canada, Kessler notes, still “has an opportunity to change course.” He doesn’t sound like he thinks we’re going to take it.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 13, 2009 at 4:46 PM - 31 Comments
Rick Hillier started with a joke about something his late father had said. Then one about his wife and his propensity to talk. Then one about missing his flight. Then one about his Newfoundland heritage. Then about the stature of his audience. Then about George Stroumboulopoulos. Then about Alex Trebek and Wheel of Fortune.
The occasion was a dinner in a hotel ballroom in downtown Ottawa to mark the beginning of a weekend conference of “conservative-oriented” thinkers. General Hillier, formerly the top-ranking soldier in the Canadian military, was preceded to the stage by Preston Manning, former leader of the Reform party. Manning, with remarkably blond hair for a man of 66, was preceded to the stage by Monte Solberg, a former Conservative government minister who has left politics and now has a blog.
In front of the stage were approximately 20 tables with approximately 10 people seated at each. Each table had a brown tablecloth and a vase of red or white flowers. Men, each in a black or navy blue suit, outnumbered women by a factor of three to one. Waiters in black suits, white shirts and black bow ties served roasted butternut squash with green valley apple bisque to start and a main course of slowly roasted rib eye of western beef with fresh herb pan juices, roasted potatoes and seasonal fresh vegetables.
As guests—including half a dozen Conservative MPs and political science professor Tom Flanagan—nibbled at their dessert (a granny smith and caramel tart tatin with vanilla bean ice cream), General Hillier proceeded with his speech.
“Life is good, isn’t it?” he asked. “We live in the best country in the world … You need to stop and remind yourself of that.” Continue…