7-11 Stores are everywhere in Thailand, and why you should avoid them.

7-11-thailandMy thinking about the biggest convenience store chain on Earth may be counter to what many believe, but then I have always been a bit of a contrarian.  

7-11 stores are everywhere in Thailand. There is often more than one on a single block in some of the larger cities. And some are saying that this retail monster is destroying part of the best of Thai culture.

Many people say 7-11 stores are great, being so convenient, and in Thailand they are even more convenient than the typical convenience store in American communities. You can get an immediate snack, pay your electric bill, add time to your cell phone, pick up a condom for later tonight and wash it all down with an orange flavored Fanta soda (Fanta being the creation of Hitler’s Nazi Germany when they could no longer get Coca Cola has since been acquired by Coke). What’s so bad about that? Well there is always a yang with that yin, and please read on to get my opinion of the after-effects to the nation from this chain.

Maybe this is a way for a Thai entrepreneur to avoid the franchise fees...change the name, but keep the same.  Store seen in BKK.

Maybe this is a way for a Thai entrepreneur to avoid the franchise fees…
change the name, but keep the same. Store seen in BKK.

In the United States, the third largest nation in the world, there are 6,900 7-11 shops. In little Thailand, with a population about one-fifth of the US, there are 6,800 7-11 stores. This Dallas born atrocity, with its white bread processed absolute crap food (by and large) is competing in Thailand with street kitchens that produce rivers of flavor with some of the best food on the planet. It is a sad commentary of the changes in the eating habits and health of Thailand, and perhaps other societies as well.

.7-11 stores became so popular in Thailand because they filled a need. Usually to have some street stir fried noodles and a cup of excellent Thai coffee, a customer must actually sit down and wait for a few minutes — not long for sure because the sidewalk chefs are adept at producing a great lunch in less than ten minutes. But in today’s world with I-phones and computer pads, instantaneous worldwide communication, and all of civilization’s knowledge available in a moment of google-ing, ten minutes is way too long. And the results of this obsession with instantly fast everything are greater obesity, higher blood pressures and astronomical cancer rates.

“Your intimate friend, always close by” in the motto of 7-11 stores in Thailand, and it is definitely true. They are close by anywhere you may go in Thailand. You might even see two 7-11 shops within eye-sight and have to decide which one of the almost identical stores you want to go into. But are they a true friend?

The convenience stores do adapt to the local tastes while maintaining a foundation of the worst ingredients of processed eatables and sugar water drinks possible. In Muslim predominant areas, such as the very far south of Thailand and across the border in Malaysia, 7-11 marts offer halal foods. In most of Thailand, they will have pizza slices with the flavor of Tom Yum. All 7-11 establishments are loaded with Lay’s Potato Chips (probably the worst food available for the human body), and in Thailand the Lay’s Chips are Seaweed flavored, or Spicy Crab flavored or a number of other chemically created Thai tastes.

What is the result of this junk food empire moving in on the Kingdom? It’s obvious. Thai people which are inclined genetically to be thin and trim (and generally beautiful people) are becoming heftier, not yet to the degree of an obese country like United States, but moving in that direction. According to World Health Organization statistics, about 30 percent of Thailand’s population is overweight (which is not necessarily obese, fortunately). As the monster junk food chain grows and grows, will Thailand’s population begin to resemble America’s generally fat population with its accompanying cardiac and diabetes epidemics?

Like in America, one of the biggest producers of health problems are “soft drinks” (how we came up with the moniker “soft” is probably an amazing story by itself. They should be called “sweet drinks”, “sugary drinks” or “slow poison drinks’, but those are probably not great marketing names). These world industrial giants producers, dominated by the American company Coca Cola, have gigantic promotional budgets that would dwarf even the most aggressive campaigns that could be put out by health organizations.

There are television ads for 7-11 junk food on Thai TV every day around the clock. There is even a slapstick television show called “Sausage Mansion” which has non-stop product placements of 7-11 items. The emphasis of this TV show is on hot dogs. It is a Thai tradition that people have funny nicknames like “fish” or “crab” (that’s the prime minister’s nickname) or “pig” (which is not negative in Thailand and does not refer to cops). On the “Sausage Mansion” show, characters have nicknames like Soda or Sausage, reflecting 7-11 fast food. It must be remembered that in Thailand, the 7-11 franchises are controlled by an agro-conglomerate giant called Charoen Pokphand (CP), which also owns massive industrial pork farms and a major cable TV provider and is the leading producer in Thailand of microwavable quick “dinners”. This kind of corporate control and persuasion of the public, while common in America, is something new for the Kingdom of Thailand.

Thai street foodI have the belief that when you are given a great power — whether it is as leader of the (not)”Free World” or control over the diets of a huge portion of a nation’s citizens — there is an equal amount of responsibility towards those affected that comes with it.  We are all here for a just a short period of time, and everyone should leave a positive legacy.

As a consumer in Thailand, even if it is for just a short holiday, I believe people have an  obligation to patronize the true cultural eating establishments. Besides helping the nation, it is also good for your own health. Go have a Pad Se Ew Gai cooked by that lovely lady in the sidewalk café for lunch, and stay away from the potato chips and aspartame poisoned sweet drink. And eat a banana.

Breaking News:  03 Feb ’13 – Thailand’s 7-11 Operator Eyes Expansion to China, Neighboring Countries – Wall Street Journal

Mini mart in Chiang Rai  that is missing the second 1

Mini mart in Chiang Rai that is missing the second 1

Here is a video from an American expat in Thailand that thinks the 7-11 store food is great:

book making money in Thailand Godfree 2

 

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11 thoughts on “7-11 Stores are everywhere in Thailand, and why you should avoid them.

  1. Hmm. That’s a good point. I can live without 7/11. Next target has to be junk food, before it destroys Thailand completely. It may not be regulated but at least it can be honestly investigated and the results and recommendations published.

  2. Yes, you are 100% correct. One thing you didn’t mention was an air conditioner. When Iv’e traveled there, the group i’m with likes to go in there just to walk around and cool off for a bit. its too bad that kids will be kids and want all these sugary snacks and drinks that are packaged and ready to go. if you go to the coffee shop outside, you may get your coffee in a small plastic bag. well, “how are they supposed to post that on facebook?” If its not trendy, Thais aren’t going for it. what 7-11 is doing can be said for a lot of businesses. they all sell the same crap. it is sad, and your posting is totally 100% correct. if the country follows along the US fatness footsteps, they will surely be another country with an obesity and diabetic pandemic. Whats to follow? pharmaceutical drugs of course. What can we do to stop it? What needs to happen is more independent business people making packaged snacks that are healthier. one important thing, they have to “look cute”. maybe that’s what needs to happen. it needs to become trendy and cool to support healthier, local businesses.

    Great post!

  3. A couple of notes and corrections:

    1) 7-11 started in Dallas, not Houston.

    2) The chain is owned by Seven & I Holdings Co., a Japanese company that used be named Ito-Yokado.

    3) The most 7-11s are in Japan: 14,579; compared to a mere 8200 in the U.S.

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/7-11

    It is possible to live in the U.S. and rarely or never shop at 7-11. I almost never give them my money. Everything they sell, including gasoline and coffee, is available at better prices from other stores. I suspect that this is true in Thailand as well.

    • OK, I will give you the Dallas correction. The Franchises of 7-11 stores in Thailand are controlled by a Thai company, CP, which seems to own most everything around this country. While the chain worldwide brand is owned by Japanese, they are still franchised out to others. So I will keep my answer for your number 2 (I specified in my article that it was the Thai franchises that were owned by CP). Japan has more 7-11 stores, but a population of over 127 million, which is more than double the population of Thailand. Thailand does not have the top number of 7-11 stores of other countries in the world (it is a fairly small country), but it has a lot of them. Never claimed that they have the most.
      In the US, there are many other convenience stores besides 7-11. In Thailand, there are very few other convenience stores and the whole concept is fairly new. There is one small chain called Family Mart in Thailand, but I don’t think it gives the 7-11 stores much competition. If someone is inclined to this quick junk food, there are not a lot of alternatives like in the Fast Food Nation of America. 7-11 stores dominate the landscape here for junk food, and is the unquestionable symbol of unhealthy diets in Thailand. The merchandise available at Thai 7-11 stores is different from the US. No gas at the Thai stores, for instance, and the Westernized style junk food contrasts so much from the quality offerings (meaning fresh and unprocessed) offered in traditional Thai street eateries. Coffee is the most minor thing offered in a Thai 7-11, where you get a pack of instant along with a cup of hot water. Thais traditionally do not eat wheat bread and cheese at all, but the 7-11 stores have moved the youngest Thai generation in that direction, with the expected results. My premise is that this change is not a positive one. All one has to do is look at the examples in the West that have been eating this diet for a couple of generations.

  4. Yep, but not the 7-Eleven we know and ignore in America. Small, clean, efficient stores that are truly one-stop shops. Milk, eggs, beer, cooking spices, school supplies, booze, batteries, fast food- got ‘em all.

  5. I have done tests with my own body many times regarding this subject. If you eat an all organic diet, fruits and vegetables and rice and oatmeal and yogurt and fish and some chicken and sunflower seeds, that type of diet all organic, you cannot help but lose weight and be your normal weight as you’re suppose to be. And let this account for say roughly a 2,000 calorie diet. Now I tried another kind of diet, where I ate sandwiches from 7/11, and had a candy bar or two for sweets, and ate at the local Mexican food shop having fish tacos and rolled tacos. And let this diet account for the same 2,000 calories.

    What I found was that calories really don’t matter in the general sense. While eating an all organic diet I had trouble maintaining my weight up, while eating a non organic diet I had an impossible time losing weight, it simply wasn’t possible if you ate everyday, and all I would do is slowly gradually gain weight. This is how and why I know they are putting “chemicals” into the food that is causing this, and I personally believe it’s a conspiracy to do so. Why? Well look at the ingredients of organic oatmeal for instance, they have no chemical ingredients and do not the packages of oatmeal last and stay fresh? Why would you need to put anything in the oatmeal if you didn’t need to? Why is it that all the companies put the same ingredients (chemicals) into their food? Would not some choose to put them and some choose not to? Why do they all put them in?

    What you will find is a gigantic conspiracy taking place to put chemicals into the food supply to make people fat and unhealthy. Because when you eat this chemical food you’ll notice that you don’t go to the bathroom properly and healthy. When you eat all organic food you go to the bathroom very healthy, and there is a huge difference between the two. So I agree with what you’re saying and I really wish this wasn’t happening in Thailand because one of the reasons I want to go there is to escape things Western not find them in abundance, especially MacDonalds, that is an embarrassment. I tasted Thai food for the first time a couple of weeks ago and now I know why everyone says it’s so good because it is the best food in the world.

    I really hope you are enjoying yourself out there in Chiang Mai and thanks for all the great information you have on your blog, it’s really fantastic!

    • Thanks, and I too am embarrassed about MacDonald’s. That IS America in may people’s eyes. Fortunately, the vast majority in Thailand still rely on healthy cheap and good Thai Food. MacDonald’s is like an invader into so many places in the world, hooking up kids to their crap like a drug dealer in a school yard.
      Hope you really get into eating Thai because I believe it offers a really good eating experience.

  6. I’ve enjoyed your blog so far and found your anti-authoritarian views very agreeable. But this story is a red flag. It’s exactly like every attack on Walmart I’ve ever heard. What would you have? Laws passed by the Thai government to ban these stores? If someone gave you the power to drive them out of Thailand, would you? Fact is, they’re there because people want them. You might think it’s a mistake to shop there, and I might agree with you. But each and every single one of them would be out of business in a month if enough people stopped buying from them. I take that as proof that these stores are offering their customers a better deal than the competition. Just because the competition are these “street vendors” you seem to have such a romantic view of, means nothing.

    It’s not for me or for you or anyone else to decide whether these 7-11 stores are good for the people of Thailand, but for each individual person. The most you and I can do is say to them, this is a mistake and here is why. But if they insist on buying that junk food anyway, we have to respect their decisions.

    • Igor: You are absolutely correct and I agree with you completely. One of the main reasons I love Thailand is that we do not have regulations limiting businesses or personal choices; it is the market that decides if a business should prosper or go. My point was on an individual basis only that the food inside the 7-11 stores (and they are not alone for sure) is unhealthy for your body. Processed junk food may kill us all, but I will always fight to have the right for anyone to put whatever poison they want into their own body. So it is a personal suggestion that I say people should avoid 7-11 stores, but it is fine with me that they are there.
      Do you know that many kids here in Thailand are nicknamed “Seven”, which is short for 7-11. That’s what they are named after.

  7. I would also like to point out that all of the 7-11′s in thailand are Franchises as far as I know so those businesses are owned by Thais.

    • All the franchises for 7-11 stores in Thailand are owned by CP industries, the largest agricultural company in Thailand and the owner is the richest man in the nation. He then has sub-franchised the stores to individual owners,

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