Refrigerator Ownership and the Rise of the Supermarkets

Yesterday, we had an interesting discussion on Refrigerator Ownership and its relationship to bulk shopping in malls and grocery stores and daily shopping in small farmers markets in many developing countries. My argument was that increase in bulk shopping or weekly shopping is associated with globalization as well as increase in appliance sales in developing countries. For instance with the growth in appliance sales, particularly refrigerator ownership in developing nations, small farmer markets selling locally grown produce has been declining. This decline in locally grown produce is associated with increase in refrigerator ownership and use, which has not only increased electricity consumption, but also introduced the concept of mall shopping and large grocery supermarkets, a Western or rather American concept, which is rapidly over-taking developing states such as India and China. A new brand of refrigerator launched by the Korean firm Samsung is expected to rake in sales of 65 million dollars in India within the first year of launch.

For example, refrigerator ownership in Peru was about 10 percent, by the year 2020 it is expected to increase to 80 percent; similarly, in South Africa refrigerator ownership was below 10 percent, and it is expected to increase to 70 percent by the year 2020. This data is derived from a study done by Michael A. McNeil and Virginie E. Letschert of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. I have linked the article here; you can check it for yourself. As I pointed out in class, increase in refrigerator ownership seems to be correlated with the decline in traditional markets.

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2 Responses to “Refrigerator Ownership and the Rise of the Supermarkets”

  1. Is Your Refrigerator Running? Then Welcome to Globalization « Pax Americana: Culture, Politics, and Ineffectual Debate Says:

    […] of the recent Oxford Word of the Year (locavore: those who eat only locally grown food), check out the link between refrigerator ownership and the rise of globalized supermarkets from Professor […]

  2. Margaret Kettles Says:

    I would argue that this idea cannot be universally applied. I have spent time living in the homes of several families in Germany – an industrialized nation that has had widespread access to refrigerators as long as the United States and other developed countries – and those families did grocery shopping daily and used fresh and locally grown produce. In my time in Germany, I have seen remarkably supermarkets; instead there are many small grocery stores. A Walmart did open in the town in which I was staying, but it closed several months later because the Germans generally do not buy in bulk. Although I haven’t had first hand experience in other parts of Europe, I believe that this mindset is pretty similar throughout the continent.


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