A Canadian drink maker accused of misusing Maori culture and traditions to sell its product has apologised for offending people and plans to review its marketing strategy.
The energy drink was recently launched in Canada under the name Haka.
The marketing materials for the drinks are accompanied by the slogans “Unleash your inner warrior” and “Warrior life … Charge up”.
The marketing is accompanied of a warrior with a moko and the website also plays a techno version of a haka.
Furious Kiwi expats have called on the New Zealand Government to step in to prevent the “cultural misappropriation” of Maori culture.
Today the maker of the drink, Hakaenergy, apologised and told the Herald it was reviewing its marketing materials.
Members of the Kia Ora Canada Facebook page, a page for New Zealanders living in Canada, expressed outrage after a member spotted the cans being sold in Toronto.
The drink appears to be being sold in several convenience stores and bars in the Toronto area and can also be ordered online.
According to the company’s website, the guarana-based energy drink was first made in South America in 2012 and was launched in Canada at the end of 2016.
Kimoti Ketu, who describes herself as half Canadian and half Maori living in Toronto, said linking a haka with an energy drink was completely out of context.
“It’s cultural misappropriation and it’s unnecessary in this day and age … I don’t really know if he (the company) knows the significance behind it or if he’s taken it as an assault because he’s not answering anybody back. But if you are going to represent a culture, know what you are speaking.”
Ketu had tried to contact the company via Instagram and Facebook, but had no response and had been blocked.
On Sunday the Herald asked the drink maker, Hakaenergy, for comment.
“It has come to our attention as well that some of our marketing materials have offended the Maori and New Zealanders more broadly,” the company responded today.
“We are a small, family-owned business and it was never our intention to offend anyone. We wish to extend our humble apology. To address these concerns, Hakaenergy will be undertaking a review of our marketing materials and approach.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told the Herald it was aware of the concerns and the New Zealand High Commission in Ottawa, Canada was investigating.
MFAT said the ministry shared the concerns raised by New Zealanders living in Canada.
“We share those concerns and the New Zealand High Commission in Ottawa is seeking further information.”
Labour Maori Affairs and Treaty Settlements spokeswoman Nanaia Mahuta said it was offensive and was just another example of how it was too easy to corporatise Maori culture without any consenting process.
“Because any use of Maori culture, design, ideas, intellectual property should be a matter where Maori are involved and have the ability to influence the way in which things can be done correctly if at all.”
She said what was offensive was that there had been no regard for the content or appropriateness of the words, ideas and designs used that had an indigenous background.
“I think more and more as other countries look to indigenous cultures for new ideas, there has to be an international protocol to work alongside indigenous people.”
Maori Party co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell said it was dismaying to see a company misappropriate a culture’s identity for profit.
“Haka is powerful so I can see why a company making an energy drink would want to associate itself with it.
“But in this day and age it is easy to do a simple web search to make sure you don’t offend anyone with a brand name.”
Awa Associates co-director Papatuanuku Nahi was outraged indigenous imagery was being linked to sugary drinks.
“We have seen this time and again to sell smokes and alcohol and now to sell sugary drinks. It seems incredulous that in the year celebrating 10 years of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we’re still having to deal with the sort of appropriation.”
However Dr Steve Elers, lecturer of communication at Massey University’s School of Communication, Journalism and Marketing who has researched how Maori are portrayed in marketing, said it was unlikely New Zealand could do anything to stop the South American company using the word because it was based overseas.
Elers said indigenous cultures have always been commodified, without permission or compensation, since indigenous lands were colonised.
“In terms of haka, it is often taken out of its cultural context and used in a profit-making manner, thereby reducing the integrity and mana of the haka. It could be argued too that the All Blacks fit into this category. By commodifying the haka, it becomes just another spectacle for the masses, another form of popular culture to be packaged and sold.”
Other examples of companies using haka in their marketing include British menswear chain Jacamo who created its own haka in 2015 called “The Hakerena”. In 2014, the haka was used in advert aimed at encouraging French people to exercise to combat osteoarthritis and it has also been used in the past to market William Lawson’s Whiskey, Fiat in Italy and Coke Zero in Japan.