Fast Food in Argentina

Buenos Aires
9 de Julio Avenida, Buenos Aires, Argentina (photo credit: Roland Soong)


A McDonald's lunch at the office
(photo credit: Roland Soong)

In USA, the popularity of  'fast food' is due to a combination of several factors:

  • it is fast to order and consume; in fact, the fast food industry is a model of studied efficiency
  • it is convenient to order (e.g. combo meals), which is important in a society running at a hectic pace
  • it is convenient to consume, either at the restaurant or taken back to the office or home
  • it is 'tasty' (e.g. sweet fizzy drinks, salty french fries, etc)
  • it is marketed extremely well through numerous tie-ins and enormous advertising budgets
  • it is relatively cheap (e.g. compared to sitting down at a proper restaurant)
  • it is ubiquitous

The remarkable successes of the giant fast food restaurant chains such as McDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut have encouraged them to expand globally, and they have been largely successful with some exceptions when they come up against cultural resistance and/or xenophobia.  

We will report some data taken from the TGI Argentina study.  This is a consumer survey of 6,351 persons between the ages of 12 and 75 in Argentina conducted by IBOPE Argentina during 1999. According to this study, 39% of the survey respondents consumed fast food (comida rápida) in the last 30 days.  In the following table, we break down this number by age/sex and by socio-economic level.

% Consumed Fast Food by Demographic Characteristics

Demographic Characteristic / Class % Consumed Fast Food
Age/Sex
     Male 12-19
     Male 20-24
     Male 25-34
     Male 35-44
     Male 45-54
     Male 55-64
     Male 65-75

     Female 12-19
     Female 20-24
     Female 25-34
     Female 35-44
     Female 45-54
     Female 55-64
     Female 65-75

45%
44%
44%
39%
35%
36%
15%

45%
53%
48%
38%
26%
29%
18%
Socio-Economic Level
     ABC1
     C2
     C3
     D1
     D2
     E

60%
53%
48%
33%
25%
11%
TOTAL 39%

(source:  TGI Argentina, IBOPE Argentina)

The above table shows a couple of interesting things.  First of all, the consumption by age/sex is consistent with the observation that young people are most likely to be fast food consumers.   Outside of the USA, the big American fast food names such as McDonald's and Burger King carry notions of trendiness and prestige associated with the English-speaking United States of America.  Consumption of fast food therefore signals active participation in the global culture of consumption.  The other thing is that fast food consumption level increases sharply with socio-economic level.  What is regarded as down-scale, low-brow comestibles in the USA becomes up-scale, fashionable food elsewhere, and thus calling for a different set of marketing positioning and strategies.  One extraordinary circumstance in Argentina is that Buenos Aires has one of the world's only two kosher McDonald's restaurants, the other one being in Israel.

Now, fast food is not without its serious critics.  In terms of nutritional value, fast food meals are regarded by professional nutritionists have too much fat, too many calories, poor nutritional value and contain harmful food additives, flavor enhancers, coloring agents, sweeteners and preservatives.  Fast food make consumers feel satisfied without supplying the proper and balanced nutrition.  For this reason, fast food is crowned with the label 'junk food'.

In the TGI Argentina study, the respondents were shown the statement "I think that fast food is 'junk'" ("Pienso que comida rápida es chatarra").  Among all survey respondents, 36% agreed completely with this statement.  But here is the odd outcome about this question --- among people who completely agreed with this statement, 33% consumed fast food in the past 30 days!  There is barely any cognitive dissonance about eating what you recognize as junk food.

Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, Argentina (photo credit: Roland Soong)

Perhaps the proper attitude towards this matter is that we can enjoy the occasional cheeseburger, french fries and soda.  The point is not to eradicate all fast food from the face of the earth, but to educate people about recognizing and maintaining a healthy, balanced diet.

Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, 
Argentina 
(photo credit:
Roland Soong)

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(posted by Roland Soong on 4/29/00)


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