Why Poutine as a Main Dish is not International, Yet: Marketing In a Competitive Food Culture

Short rib poutine is a new concession item that will be served at Lambeau Field during the 2019 season.Gpg Lambeaufood 091019 Sk26
Short rib poutine is a new concession item that will be served at Lambeau Field during the 2019 season.Gpg Lambeaufood 091019 Sk26 /

Poutine is a French-Canadian invention that can be found in multiple parts of the world, taking on many names and variations. Regardless of all the hype this gluttonous main dish brings in Canada, specifically in Quebec, globally the amount of popularity and marketing I think the dish deserves is lackluster. Overall, it is very accessible and an easy meal for anyone anywhere and I cannot understand why people are missing out, so here is why.

The Haters and Critics

First, we must address the critics and what they think is wrong with poutine. What most internet critics of poutine say is that the dish gives off a grotesque image. Fries with loads of Thanksgiving gravy dumped on top, with cheese curds that lack distinct flavor. Most people will say the dish is just for “drunk people” and when put against international classics like a good steak or pizza, they argue poutine has no place amongst these cult classics.

Poutine’s Potential and Its Local Popularity as a Main Dish

I beg to differ because poutine is not an easily dismissible dish. Like there are bad steaks and good steaks, the same goes for poutine. Often poutine is sold as a side dish, but Restaurant La Banquise in Montreal has changed the way we envision the dish; making it a main course.

La Banquise was originally opened in May 1968 serving only hotdogs and fries. But in time, the restaurant began making their famous poutines and developed an extensive menu with many different variations. From guacamole to pulled pork, the dish goes beyond the holy trinity and their poutines are spectacular. Digging into one is a messy affair, but it satisfies any cravings or appetites.

Every time I pay the restaurant a visit, there is a line of people outside and every table occupied with paying customers (pre-covid), but I always thought to myself how no one has opened a similar business outside of Quebec.

French fries, gravy and cheese curds are not foreign ingredients to the international community. Cheese curds outside of Canada are produced in Wisconsin, and I never understood how the US never picked up poutine as a popular dish.

While the dish can be found in the United States, it has no significance to the overall market and has not picked up any notoriety. So why is no one taking the risk to open their own Poutine restaurants outside of Canada?

The Marketing Of Food and Poutine, The Good, The Bad and the Hungry

What Food marketing has taught us is that nothing is stable. Trends come and go, like the Avocado toast of the mid 2010’s, people eat what is trendy, exciting, and new. Whilst this is great, there can be a whole set of problems when marketing is involved.

For example, In Japan the milk industry was not part of the Japanese culture until westernization. In an article by Brad Scott in The Wisconsin State Farmer he says that: “In the 2000’s Japan was a milk deficient country and milk production was down 14%.” With the government pushing the population to drink milk, there was an opportunity for the US to be an importer.

So perhaps extensive marketing can be risky and lead to certain problems like not being able to provide your own population as supply does not meet demand. Like seen in a study by Paul Hansen called “Becoming bovine: Mechanics and metamorphosis in Hokkaido’s animal-human-machine”, with Japan’s incapability to meet milk demand old practices were modernized that set off a whole set of new problems, so perhaps the marketing of milk opened a lot of risky business. This is where food marketing becomes a balance beam between ethics, politics and the economy.

While food marketing is a strong vehicle for selling food and a practice that we have adopted in the west, poutine is a dish that would require a lot less effort than something like the milk marketing of Hokkaido. Companies like Smoke’s Poutinerie a company founded in 2008 is slowly trying to grow their market outside of Canada.

The Potential For Growth Outside of Canada As Main Dish

In Canada, where American companies like McDonalds and Costco already produce their own versions of Poutine in their local respective economies. Perhaps Costco and McDonalds should bring Poutine to certain American locations and test it out. Who knows? It might become popular even amongst everyday Americans. A reddit post called “Costco Poutine is a thing of beauty” goes to show how Americans are open to the option.

Poutine has already seen an expansion outside of Quebec into various other Canadian provinces like Ontario and has become a popular option for many people. Often Poutine is ordered over regular French fries at restaurants, and this goes to say a lot.

The dish can be a versatile dish and be the main star of a successful restaurant as shown by the very successful La Banquise. Poutine can also be decadent as Montreal restaurants like Poutine Ville and Au Pied Du Cochon have their own illustrious versions involving foie gras or wine reduction gravy. I think poutine has proved itself to be very marketable and a versatile dish outside of Quebec because the world of possibility with Poutine is endless, easy, and delicious.

Of course, dressed french fries are not totally foreign as chili cheese fries and other dressed fries exist. But personally, I would order the poutine every time. The irresistible satisfaction of the combination leaves me wondering, why is poutine not international yet?