Sampling a local food is part and parcel of travel. Food is one of the most immediate, easy and fun ways in which to try out a local culture wherever you are in the world. After all 'we are what we eat'.

But there are local foods we find alien and as a result morally offensive. Care for the Wild International's campaign against Tesco selling live turtles at its first Tesco-branded store in China (The Grocer, 3 February, p8) is a case in point.

One of the first rules of running a successful brand and business is to listen to your consumers. Only by understanding, meeting and anticipating their needs will you sell products and build your brand.

Nike is successful, not simply for its size, but because it has been connecting to sports fans on a local level with grass roots activity, which captures the passion and performance that sit at the heart of the brand. Another example is HSBC, which makes the most of its understanding of local cultural nuances to create clear and differentiated competitor advantage.

Tesco's success has been based on similar principles. It puts its customers first in everything it does. It produces, stocks and sells what consumers want to buy.

A significant part of this is understanding and reflecting local needs and wants - from everyday goods to more exotic items. In Tesco's Eastern European stores there are live fish for sale - something that is normal to people there.

So what's so wrong about selling live turtles in China given they are farmed and the Chinese have been eating turtles for centuries? Tesco argues that it shouldn't impose personal or cultural beliefs on markets such as China and that is has to adapt to local demand. And on the one hand it can indeed be argued that selling turtles in China is meeting local needs. It is connecting consumers to the Tesco brand in a shrewd business move that enables it to leverage a business advantage.

However, on the other, it risks tarnishing its reputation in one of its most important markets - the UK. Then again, who are we to say what the Chinese should or should not eat?

For some Asians, the thought of eating fermented dairy products, otherwise known as cheese, is incomprehensible. Meanwhile, few in the UK question the morality behind the sale of live lobster.

So where should companies draw the line? Companies need to balance the consensus of views of key stakeholders in their main markets against the local needs of consumers. A good example is whaling. The majority of countries oppose the notion of whale hunting but a few - Japan, Norway and Iceland - see it as an important way of life.

Would it be right for Tesco to sell whale meat in Japan?

For the Japanese, yes, but to the overwhelming majority of people who consume its products and hold shares in the company, the answer is no. Tesco was, quite rightly, held to account for doing so and removed the products from its shelves. We should not forget responsible retailing. We should be objecting to food on the grounds of ethical sourcing, animal welfare and sustainability of food stocks rather than merely not understanding or liking the food itself.

Turtles should be removed from shelves only if they are endangered - and let's not forget that in this case the turtles are farmed - and not just because they are unpalatable to our tastes.

Max Riason is associate director of brand consultancy Interbrand