“Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture.”Mark Kurlansky
Tunisia is a country that has long been celebrated for its rich cultural heritage and delicious cuisine. Tunisia is a melting pot of different cultural influences that have blended together to create a truly unique identity. One of the country’s most notable exports is Award Winning Extra Virgin Olive Oil, which has been produced in Tunisia for centuries. In fact, Tunisia is the world’s second-largest exporter of olive oil, and its high-quality oil is continuously prized by experts in the field, International Olive Oil Competitions, chefs, and foodies alike for its rich flavor and health benefits.
Tunisian Extra Virgin and Organic Olive oil are just one of the many ways that Tunisia’s food culture drives its economy. Dates are another significant export, and Tunisia is one of the largest producers of dates in the world. Another staple of Tunisian cuisine is Harissa, a spicy chili paste that is made with a blend of different peppers, garlic, and spices. This fiery condiment is used in every fast food meal, main course, or as an appetizer in homes and restaurants alike in Tunisia. We eat Harissa like people eat chips and crackers. We even call ourselves “Harissa People – Cha’ab el Harissa”.
But Tunisia’s food culture is about much more than just exports. Tunisian cuisine is a reflection of the country’s rich history and the many cultural influences that have shaped it over the years.
Yet the question here is: Are we doing enough?
When I asked ChatGPT the question, he gave me an answer that is generic and very “diplomatic” I would say. Take a look at it:
“Tunisia has made great strides in recent years to promote its food culture and exports. The government has invested in programs to help small farmers and producers, and there has been a growing interest in promoting Tunisian food and wine abroad. However, there is always more that can be done to promote Tunisian cuisine and increase its global reach.
One potential area for improvement is marketing and branding. While Tunisia is known for its olive oil, dates, and harissa, there is still room to promote other Tunisian products and dishes that are less well-known outside the country. Developing a strong brand identity for Tunisian cuisine could help to increase its visibility and appeal to consumers around the world.”
My personal answer to this question is the following:
As individuals and private companies, I believe that there are great efforts deployed to promote the products of Tunisia and the examples are multiple. I am personally leading OLYFO a Tunisian Award Winning Extra Virgin Olive Oil Company over the last two and a half years and we have exported our products to multiple countries such as Russia, Vietnam, Kenya, Rwanda, the USA, Canada, France, and more…
However, in terms of Country Branding, I believe we could do a lot more together by joining such efforts and promoting Tunisia – not just as: a cheap destination or a place where the sun is shining 300+ days a year. Which is by the way, correct but does not give a fair representation of the country’s offer. – In order to truly promote Tunisian cuisine and increase its global reach, there needs to be a collective effort from the government, private sector, and other stakeholders in the food industry.
What can we do more and better?
“There is no sincere love than the love of food.”George Bernard Shaw
One potential strategy could be to develop a national food branding campaign that highlights the diversity and richness of Tunisian cuisine. This could involve partnering with international and local chefs and food bloggers to showcase traditional and modern/traditional Tunisian dishes, as well as organizing food festivals and events that celebrate Tunisian culture in Tunisia and Abroad.
Another strategy could be to invest in infrastructure and support programs (The same way we are doing great work for the startup nation brand) that help small farmers and producers improve the quality and sustainability of their products. This could include providing access to advanced training and resources on best practices for olive oil, dates, and other productions, as well as investing in irrigation systems and other technologies that can help to increase yields and reduce waste.
More efforts could be put into promoting Tunisia’s cuisine through digital channels, such as social media platforms and food blogs. In today’s digital age, online presence is key, and having a strong social media strategy can help to increase visibility and reach among potential consumers. I personally do not think that showcasing Tunisia in Paris Metro as a sunny place with beautiful beaches every year generates the right outcome. Let’s look at the way KSA is now promoting its 2030 vision through smart collaborations with podcasters and influencers such as Thmanyah and many more…
Lebanese and Syrian Food as examples
Lebanese and Syrian food have both played a significant role in promoting the cultural heritage and identity of their respective countries. Lebanese cuisine, in particular, has gained widespread recognition and popularity around the world, becoming a global trend in recent years.
I personally travel a lot, and whenever I am confused about food options – Not Tunisian because I would always go Tunisian if the OPTION IS AVAILABLE – I opt for a Chawarma, or a Kebba or Lebanese Chich.
The headlines may speak about the collapse of the Lebanese currency or the war in Syria, but regular people will always continue to enjoy a Kebba or an Arayes.
That is how much Food is important in promoting a country and building its brand as a fun and life-loving place to live. Even if the reality is completely different. but the BRAND is there!
The Lebanese and Syrian Food examples showcase how the individuals succeeded in building an alternative image to what is portrayed by politics. Imagine what could be done if efforts are joined and stakeholders align their vision and mission to build a new brand.
“Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving, and identity.”Jonathan Safran Foer
Overall, there are many potential strategies that could be implemented to promote Tunisian cuisine and increase its global reach. These strategies could involve developing a national food branding campaign, investing in infrastructure and support programs for small farmers and producers, and leveraging digital channels to increase visibility and reach among potential consumers. It will take a collective effort from the government, private sector, and other stakeholders in the food industry to truly showcase the diversity and richness of Tunisian cuisine and make it a household name around the world. By doing so, Tunisia can unlock the economic potential of its food industry and continue to build upon its rich cultural heritage for generations to come.