Downey's Soup

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Downey’s Soup Downey’s is an Irish tavern in Philadelphia created over 20 years ago by Jack Downey. Over the years, the fortunes of the restaurant have wavered, but the strength of some favorite menu items has helped it survive economic downturns. In particular, the lobster bisque soup has become increasingly popularity, but Downey’s efforts to market it have been sporadic. Never did Downey imagine that his lobster bisque would someday be the cause of an international trade dispute. Unbeknown to Downey, the Japanese have a strong penchant for lobster. When the Philadelphia office of the Japanese External Trade Organization (Jetro) asked Downey to serve his lobster bisque at a minitrade show in 1991, he began to think about mass production of his soups. The Japanese loved the lobster bisque. They gave Downey a strong impression that the soup would sell very well in Japan. At the time, Downey did not have a formal product line but that seemed to be only a minor obstacle. After the trade show, Michael Fisher, executive vice president for the newly formed Downey Foods Inc., was sent on an all-expenses-paid 10-day marketing trip to Japan by Jetro. (Jetro sponsors approximately 60 Americans for similar trips each year.) Although the interest expressed by the food brokers and buyers he met seemed to be more polite than enthusiastic, he did get an initial order for 1,000 cases of the lobster bisque. The only condition placed by the buyer was to reduce the salt content to comply with local Japanese tastes. Both Jetro and Fisher considered this initial order the beginning of rich export relationship with Japan. Fisher contracted a food processor in Virginia, adapted the recipe for the new salt content, and shipped the soup to Japan in short order. Visions of expanded sales in Japan were quickly dashed as the cases of soup were detained at customs. Samples were sent to a government laboratory and eventually denied entry for containing polysorbate, an emulsifying and...
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