murat ulker

The Covid19 disease caused by the corona virus spread from China to the world in a very short time. There are currently 14,600,000 cases reported, and 609,408 deaths. If we look at country rankings, the first three positions are the U.S.A. (3,844,815 cases 140,903 deaths), Brazil (2,118,646 cases and 80,120 deaths) and India (1,155,191 cases 28,084 deaths). Turkey is 14th with 220, 572 death cases in 5,508 (as of July 21, 2020). There are still efforts to find a vaccine, and drug discovery efforts continue as well. On the one hand, people who are sick are trying to get treatment. There is still much unknown about how the disease is transmitted, what increases the number of cases, and what increases the number of deaths. It still hasn’t been determined whether it is a respiratory disease or a circulatory disease…

The Covid19 disease was declared an epidemic (pandemic) by the World Health Organization (WHO) as of March 11, 2020. That day, WHO announced that 118 thousand cases had been reported in 114 countries due to the corona virus epidemic, and 4 thousand 291 people had died and thus included Covid19 in the epidemic group.

Compliance with three criteria was effective in this decision by the World Health Organization;

1) It is a new virus 2) It can be passed on to people 3) It can be spread easily and continuously from person to person.

To date, the black plague, cholera, influenza, typhoid, and the swine flu have been recognized as epidemics by meeting the same criteria.

After March 11, almost every country in the world, following the advice of WHO, applied quarantine in different ways and for differing amounts of time, some with a little bit more than desperation. They made a curfew / quarantine decision in certain settlements or throughout a country, some two days a week, some four days, some every day (1). Undoubtedly, the quarantine offered official authorities the opportunity to act responsibly while also seeing the economies of the country through a difficult position. With the relative decrease in the number of cases worldwide since the beginning of May 2020, some countries have lifted or relaxed their quarantine decisions. This time, people have started to apply their own self-quarantines by only going to certain places, certain stores, with certain behaviors. However, the epidemic has regained speed in the last ten days. The WHO’s statement is that: “some countries may have to enter quarantine again.’ With the increase in the number of cases, many countries also brought back quarantine, and curfew measures. When the number of cases increased in some cities in Australia, the public flocked to the markets as in the first days. (2).

There is a fact that, despite quarantine, 118 thousand cases worldwide on March 11 increased to 14.6 million in approximately five months, and the number of deaths increased from 4 thousand to 609 thousand deaths. In other words, approximately 85 thousand people had Corona every day while 3,700 people died from it. What would happen if no country implemented a quarantine? How many cases and deaths would that result in? It is impossible predict such a thing. If quarantine is to be applied in one place, it is to be applied to all; for the purpose of experimentation, it is not possible due to human rights and research ethics to be exposed to the virus while the quarantine is applied to only half of the people. So how do we know that quarantine is effective? From one of the hypothetical statistical models made in quarantine locations. An important group of researchers has recently implemented a specific analysis of ten Covid-19 modelings, 4 observational studies and 15 SARS and MERS modelings that try to measure whether the quarantine is effective. Their conclusion is: Although there is limited evidence, all studies have found that quarantine reduces the number of cases and related deaths. And the earlier the quarantine is started, the more effective and less costly it is. Additionally, when quarantine is combined with other measures such as social distancing, travel restrictions, and school closures, it is more effective than as a stand-alone (3). Let’s not forget that the method used here is statistical modeling, as I have stated, and it is based on many preliminary admissions, such as the incubation period of the disease, the day of infection and the co-efficiency of spread, as well as the number of family members. For example, the finding in a quarantine study in Italy suggests that the quarantine’s effect is weakened in cases where the number of family members exceeds 2, therefore quarantine is required for a longer period (4).

Let’s put aside this for a moment and recall the first days of March 2020 in Turkey. Citizens running to the grocery stores and markets in a panic to buy pasta in Turkey, while citizens abroad rushed stores for toilet paper. Thank God today we have left behind those panic-filled days, and quickly returned to normal. But when we look back, that was just three months ago, and we had a difficult time. As Turkey’s most important food producers; “Ulker Biscuit” means a biscuit that has different meanings for each of us, ages 7 to 70; being a basic food for some of us, an energy source for others, a tool for the suppression of hunger for some, and as a snack for some of us; as such we had to produce Ulker Biscuits uninterruptedly, distribute it to the whole country, and even deliver it to people who share these same feelings with us in the vast geography around us, which is a symbol of our citizenship and unity that unites us unconsciously through consumption of ‘my biscuit’, that includes happiness and nostalgia.

To understand why the biscuit is such an important and indispensable product, it is necessary to look at its history. The history of biscuits is almost as old as desserts. Some sources say that the first biscuit was cooked in the Persian Empire in the 7th century B.C.E. In our sense, the biscuit is a French invention and the origin of the biscuit filled as small fruit-filled cookies were sold on the streets of Paris in the 14th century. The word biscuit comes from the Latin ‘bis cotum’, which means baked twice. In English, this is ‘biscuit’, Italians have ‘biscotti’, Spaniards ‘bizcocho’, Germans call it ‘kekse’, Russians ‘biskit’, and the Polish call it ‘biszkopt’. In Turkey, it has been known first as ‘puskevit’ then eventually, ‘biskuvi’. Traditionally, biscuits are hard and dry. The first biscuit recipes were found in 1558-1603, a period known as the Elizabethan era (5).

The reason why the biscuit has transformed through the centuries into the present day is that it is a type of nourishment, easy to stock, easy to carry, durable and cheap. In the 17th and 18th centuries, sailors would stay on sea voyages for months at end. Hard, durable biscuits were therefore the most important food of ships. They were called “stone bread”.

The meaning of biscuit in America is slightly different. Americans call dough that is small, round, and baked in a short time, a “biscuit”. The biscuit we know for them is called a cookie or cracker. The word “cookie” is derived from the Dutch word “koekje”, a small or round cake. Dutch bakers put small pieces of dough into the oven due to temperature control. The origin of the “cookie” was this dough. It is used for biscuits, cookie sweet products, and crackers for salty products all over the world except in the USA (6).

Meanwhile, in Turkey when we say ‘potibor’ most of us remember our first famous rectangular biscuit dipped in tea as our first which Louis Lefèvre self-released by France’s Nantes in 1886. The LU name comes from Lefèvre and his business partner and wife Pauline-Isabelle Utile.

Returning from history to the present, I am not the one who says that biscuits create consumer citizenship by making people feel classless, fused, and egalitarian. I was inspired by the ideas of the sociologist, Amita Baviskar in an article I read in The Atlantic magazine (7). While writing this article, it came to my mind again while reading about Ulker of India, which was included in that article, while reading the market trend of Parle-G during the covid19 epidemic. It’s almost the same as what we’ve been through…

Because every country has its own unmatched, sourced, egalitarian mainstream biscuit brand that appeals to everyone, such as Ulker – everyone has their own ‘my biscuit’. For example, in Turkey, the Balkans, and the Middle East it is Ulker, Verkade in the Netherlands, BN in France and McVities in England. All of these brands belong to Yildiz Holding. Together with all of my colleagues, we tried to begin our products with nostalgia and happiness, uninterruptedly in order to keep our products on the shelf under these difficult conditions. I’m sure that together with all my colleagues, we all did our best in the difficult conditions of the Covid19 epidemic. Likewise, the “my biscuit” is Oreo in America, Leibniz in Germany, LU in France and Parle-G in India.

Parle-G is the traditional food of India, founded in 1929 by a businessman named Mohanlal Dayal Chauham. It is named after Vile Parle, one of the suburbs of Mumbai, from the place where it was founded. For Chauham, the company represents self-confidence and a nationalist stance against British colony imports. It is a common brand of both the poor and wealthy of India and sells one billion packages of biscuits per month.

Of course, the income distribution in India, where 1.3 billion people live, is very different from Turkey. For example, in a study conducted on 11,000 immigrants in India, it was found that 80 percent spent less than 2.5 US dollars a day, a meal a day and most of them did not receive food support from the state. For this reason, the main energy source of low-wage employees has been biscuits and the workers who needed to work in order to keep production uninterrupted during the quarantines of Covid19 had his energetic companions which were Parla-G biscuits and water. At the same time, it is worth noting that the best friend of milk tea is Parle-G in the rich neighborhoods of Mumbai.

Due to the strict quarantine, 135 plants of Parla-G in India and 60,000 employees working directly and indirectly were affected. The state has allowed the production of basic necessities, but what the main necessity is, has changed from region to region in the country, so Parle-G executives suffered quite a lot. Before the epidemic, the state allocated 5 kilograms of rice a month to 800 million people in India, doubled during those quarantine days, but still many people died of starvation, fatigue or suicide. One Parle-G employee explained very well why supply should continue during coronavirus measures: This is a social responsibility!

In the days when the corona virus disease first appeared and was felt, country administrations took the necessary precautions in the geographies where we do business. They all knew very well what was in need and what was not. We did not have to go to anyone and explain how strategically critical our production is. For this reason, we are grateful to the government officials of all countries who have taken and implemented the correct decisions in order to prevent a disruption of production, distribution and sales as well as the supply chain. We have done our best not to stop our production by maintaining the health of our employees and their families and food safety for our consumers in the countries where we do business from the very first day, as our priority. We have provided trainings to our employees in order to increase their awareness and adopt the appropriate behavior. The reason we worked without pause under such difficult conditions was not related to stamps with money. We knew we had a larger task at hand. Countries would stop if we stopped. If we were to stop, we would damage the food chain in many other countries.

Now to return to the original topic … As Yildiz Holding, we are more prepared than ever before for all quarantine periods in all countries where we have factories. There are “Covid19 slowdowns” in places where quarantine is applied, but this also negatively affects those people who have not gotten ill. Country governments are desperate in the face of possible economic collapse. Summer is coming to an end, winter is coming and every country has to open its schools.

Many UK-based studies have found that children under the age of 10 have very, very low risks of death and disease from Covid19. In Sweden, kindergartens and primary schools have never been closed, and the rate of teachers infected with covid-19 was found to be the same as for other professions. According to a recent study published in Germany, 1500 students and 500 teachers who have gone to school detected 6 per a thousand virus infections. Ofcourse opening schools is not cheap. Millions of hand sanitizers, flexible course hours, careful organization, and careful service are required. On the other hand, when children do not go to school every day, it leads to a serious waste of the mind and it does more harm than provide quarantine benefits (8).

US President Donald Trump did not announce to the World Health Organization the U.S.’s decision to step out of membership in the organization in vain. President Trump does not want to tie himself to the WHO’s quarantine measures. He knows how difficult it is to make a quarantine or curfew decision in the upcoming period, and so he is already taking action. Frankly, I think that the quarantine decisions in all countries are now difficult due to the “exasperated effect of closures” which I mentioned above. We will see what will happen together. But no matter what happens, our iconic brands, which every person call “my biscuit” in each country, will continue to be produced, eliminating need.

Such as Ulker, Verkade, BN, McVities Digestive…

Note: This article, which is open source, can be cited by mentioning the author. Copyright not required.