Frankenfood and PR
42 views | +0 today
Follow
Frankenfood and PR
The age of processed food and petri dish beef is coming to an apex as more and more consumers are examining the contents of their food and questioning its quality. Finally, food organizations are having to answer for problems in production, health code violations, and GMO ingredients. How are food companies relating to the public? Could it be better?
Your new post is loading...
Your new post is loading...
Scooped by Taylor Zimmerman
Scoop.it!

Amid lawsuits, more food companies are removing All Natural Labeling

Amid lawsuits, more food companies are removing All Natural Labeling | Frankenfood and PR | Scoop.it
A growing number of food and drink companies including PepsiCo and Campbell are quietly removing 'natural' claims from packages amid lawsuits challenging the description. The FDA is unsure how to define it.
Taylor Zimmerman's insight:

Back in the early Wild West days of advertising, companies could get away with saying anything they wanted to say about their product. There was no Federal Trade Commission that regulated what was said by companies and prevented them from misleading publics (Guth & Marsh, p.g. 169). This is actually where the term snake oil sales man comes from as companies tried to promise whatever they could about a product in order to sell it – even if it was categorically untrue.

 

In modern day advertising, businesses walk the line between truth and fantasy as they use image oriented advertising to make subconscious claims that their products are wholly satisfying and perfect. While there are some off limits words a company can use (e.g. Organic or Grass fed) because they are regulated by USDA standards, businesses can take liberties in saying whatever else they like about their product.

 

Recently, Pepsi Co. came under fire for its use of the phrase “all natural” when describing its Naked Juice product. Investigators found numerous synthetic materials and an ingredient derived from formaldehyde in their juice. The court ruled that even though the word natural is not one of the protected words by the USDA, it still implies that the food is using ingredients from the earth (i.e. not synthetic).

 

In this article, the author highlights several companies that are slowly removing their “all natural” labels as more and more of them are facing increasing litigation. Stephen Gardner, litigation director at Center for Science in the Public Interest said, “There’s a boatload of litigation and that is going to continue until companies stop conning people.”

 

Removing an all-natural label is a form of listening to the public but in the wrong way. Instead of listening to customer complaints and making changes necessary to the product to match the advertising, businesses are fine with just changing the wrapping on their products to remove legal liability. Essentially, they’re just leaving consumers in the dark about their product.

 

This does force consumers to be more critical about their food and beverage choices relying on more central processing to get the best product. The only real setback for Pepsi Co is that they cannot use “all natural” to imply healthy and to encourage an impulse buy, but they still get to keep the ingredients the same. After all, their synthetic ingredients don’t have to show up on the label because they fall under the natural flavors category.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Taylor Zimmerman
Scoop.it!

Washington awaits word on GMO labeling vote

Washington awaits word on GMO labeling vote | Frankenfood and PR | Scoop.it
Voters in Washington state appear to have rejected a measure requiring labels on genetically modified foods.
Taylor Zimmerman's insight:

An appeal to fear can be highly effective in persuasion. A company can use fear of leaving loved ones without money after a death to sell life insurance. They can use fear of a break in to sell a security system, or they could use fear of the unknown to fight against genetically modified foods. Fear can be used to bring many to the side of advocacy groups but it ultimately is not long lasting nor creates a strong active desire to support the group.

 

In this article, the votes are still being counted for a Washington measure to label GMOs on food packaging. Despite having a high percentage of people that supported the labeling of GMOs, the number of turn out voters was small and possibly lost them the deciding vote.

 

I believe that the non-GMO advocacy group made a few PR errors.

 

First, the audience that shows up to vote is primarily older citizens (Guth & Marsh, pg. 274). GMO issues tend to be broadcast to younger demographics primarily through new technology like social media and the Internet. In addition to advertising in this way, non-GMO advocacy groups should also utilize direct mailing and interpersonal communication to explain their view and fight for what they believe is right.

 

Second, especially in the article, non-GMO advocates are using fear as an appeal to labeling GMOs. While this might be effective in gathering a larger group of supporters, it doesn’t motivate people to fully support the organization. They are made more aware of the issues, but without combating some of the statistics and data used by Monsanto and others, most of the audience will not become active participants in supporting this cause (Guth & Marsh, pg. 268).

 

It might be because of their vast numbers of resources, but Monsanto seems to be taking an excellent approach to public relations. They are combating the fear and vagueness of their opposition with direct mailers and a website dedicated to answering consumer questions about the quality of GMOs. Their PR is more targeted to the audience that actually matters, and because they use hard data and have more credibility, they succeed in getting their message across to the proper audience, thus ensuring them a win on this ballot.

 

Ultimately, the non-GMO advocacy group needs to make a few changes to their public relations if they hope to be affective in producing long term change.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Taylor Zimmerman
Scoop.it!

Yoplait: High-Fructose Corn Syrup-Free and Still Not Healthy

Yoplait: High-Fructose Corn Syrup-Free and Still Not Healthy | Frankenfood and PR | Scoop.it
Last summer Yoplait made a splash in the food world when it cut high-fructose corn syrup from its yogurts, apparently in response to customer outcry.
Taylor Zimmerman's insight:

I remember seeing the commercial for this change in Yoplait’s recipe a while back. I felt as though I were watching an illusionist on stage doing some slight-of-hand magic. She convinces the audience to look over here while she does all the behind the scenes stuff over there. Essentially, Yoplait is doing this with their high fructose corn syrup commercials.

 

They give the appearance that they’re listening to their customers, and to some extent they are. They are keeping a two-way communication as they listen to their customers’ concerns about growth hormones in their dairy and high fructose corn syrup in their yogurt. In 2009 they changed dairy vendors to ones that did not use growth hormones and recently removed the GMO laden high fructose corn syrup.  It’s still slight-of-hand as their yogurt still contains 27 grams of sugar and their light yogurt substitutes aspartame for sugar.  Consumers should question the ethics of this.

 

Ultimately, though, their public relations is still good. On page 134 of Public Relations Practices, the authors share five major influences for buying practices: product quality, company’s method of handling complaints, the way a company handles a crisis when it is at fault, challenges by a government agency, and accusation of illegal or unethical trading practices.

 

Yoplait upped the quality of its yogurt in the past few years by removing growth hormones and HFC from their product. They did this by listening to the complaints of their consumers and followed that up by highlighting their efforts. In all of their commercials this past summer, they heavily advertised their desire to listen to their consumer base and to make the necessary changes to please them. Dealing with their customers during this time could be considered reacting to a crisis in which Yoplait is at fault. They obviously handled it well it their sales are going up.

 

Compared to Kraft, Yoplait has the upper hand. The yogurt company listens to their consumers or at least gives the appearance of listening to their consumers and changes their product to reflect that. They did this quickly enough so that unlike Kraft their audience cannot accuse them of unethical business practices or jumping through legal hoops to be more profitable.

 

However, there is still more work to be done for Yoplait. As the article states, their parent company is fighting a law suit over their Greek yogurt, and Yoplait still uses artificial dyes in its products. Maybe they can continue the slight-of-hand well enough that this won’t become another crisis for them.  

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Taylor Zimmerman
Scoop.it!

Pepsi: A Mouse In Mountain Dew Turns Into 'Jelly-Like' Goo

Pepsi: A Mouse In Mountain Dew Turns Into 'Jelly-Like' Goo | Frankenfood and PR | Scoop.it
Mountain Dew drinkers know their distinctively yellow beverage of choice is packed with caffeine, but a new lawsuit might get them thinking about what else is in there.
Taylor Zimmerman's insight:

It is often difficult to pin down the sole responsibility of public relations in a company. While it might be simple to view the PR department just as one would the legal or human resources department, the role of public relations should ideally spread beyond marketing and media relations into how the company relates to employees, other businesses, investors, etc. Hopefully, in a bigger, well-functioning corporation, before any statement is released by any department, it goes through the public relations team first. Unfortunately, this was not the case with a recent move by Pepsi Co.’s legal department in publicly stating that chemicals in a bottle of mountain dew would completely dissolve a mouse.

Legal and PR seem to be at odds frequently, whether it’s an example of PR ethics in encouraging a client to tell the truth where legally it would hurt them or needing to not commit perjury but saying some harmful things in a court proceeding.  In the book, Public Relations Practices, the authors describe public relations as more management than a department. It is the responsibility of public relations professionals to lead and to guide internal and external influences in an organization to reach organizational goals (pg 1). Unfortunately, PR has lately been viewed as either the crew that picks up the pieces or those responsible for creating an elaborate campaign that solely increases sales.

In this case with Pepsi, it is doubtful that the legal department consulted the PR firm on releasing a statement creating negative publicity for mountain dew. To make matters worse, they mention an ingredient, brominated vegetable oil (BVO), which is illegal in several countries outside the United States and is only permissible in certain drinks by the FDA.  It is important, from a PR perspective, to maintain ethics by remaining honest and open about the quality of the product and the potentially hazardous ingredients used. However, in a public setting and in a public release made by a department at Pepsi Co. it might have been helpful to consult the public relations team to devise a way to be honest about the ingredients, to satisfy the goal of getting rid of this law suit, and by emphasizing the safety of the ingredients used.

Now, instead of being proactive, the public relations team for Pepsi has to now pick up the pieces and scramble to restore its image and to (hopefully) confirm the safety of the product used.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Taylor Zimmerman
Scoop.it!

Cronut Burger Vendor Shut Down in Food Poisoning Incident in Canada - Eater

Cronut Burger Vendor Shut Down in Food Poisoning Incident in Canada - Eater | Frankenfood and PR | Scoop.it
New York Daily News Cronut Burger Vendor Shut Down in Food Poisoning Incident in Canada Eater Twelve people were treated and five were hospitalized for gastrointestinal distress while attending the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto last...
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Taylor Zimmerman
Scoop.it!

Fighting the fallout from a fast-food fail

Fighting the fallout from a fast-food fail | Frankenfood and PR | Scoop.it
Social media platforms can help you extinguish the flames of a PR crisis as quickly and effectively as they can ignite them.
Taylor Zimmerman's insight:

Part of public relations work is understanding Murphy’s Law and seeing how it applies to every situation. Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.  For example, the day that you spilled coffee on your once clean shirt is the day that you have to speak on camera for your company. Or right at the moment you get the call for urgent news, your phone battery goes dead. Center et al. in their book "Public Relations Practice" argue that the PR department of an organization should be proactive and have a plan/policy for crises (pg 10).

 

Surely, though, no one could have predicted that in this age of social media and 24/7 news cycles fast food companies would have to deal with crazy, hard-to-believe problems caused by their employees. In this article, the author lists five fast food faux pas that each company had to handle. Papa John’s had an employee who accidentally butt-dialed an African-American customer and left a racist rant on their voicemail. A Taco Bell employee posted a picture licking a stack of Doritos Locos taco shells. A razor blade was found in a Burger King Whopper. A Wendy’s employee posted a picture of himself drinking out of a Frosty machine, and Denny’s twitter marketing team posted a tweet about the recent NSA scandal.

 

As public relations professionals, no matter how much effort we put into building a company image and making sure that our marketing materials are perfectly reflective of our values, there is always that radical factor (acts of God, mechanical problems, human error, or management problems (pg 267)) that can and will cause problems with our public relations efforts.

 

At the start of the crisis right when it’s found out what is happening, we need to decide how big exactly this issue is. Can we fix it with a simple phone call and coupon? Do we have to issue a public statement? At what point will our public efforts draw more attention to the problem instead of smoothing it over as we hoped to do?

 

The author of this article encourages PR people to look to Domino’s and their response to a recent issue they faced where employees were sneezing and doing otherwise gross things to their pizzas. Domino’s responded with an on-camera, personal message directed at their audience and publicized the efforts they were then taking to revamp their standards of service.

 

Most importantly, it’s best to recognize that social media is a two way street. It can greatly aid your PR efforts but it can also create a mob mentality that requires some great finesse to smooth over.

more...
Sarah VanSlette's comment, September 14, 2013 4:54 PM
This is a great post, Taylor. Thank you!
Scooped by Taylor Zimmerman
Scoop.it!

In facts & numbers: Absolute majority of Americans want GMO food to be labeled

In facts & numbers: Absolute majority of Americans want GMO food to be labeled | Frankenfood and PR | Scoop.it
Polling suggests that an absolute majority of Americans favor laws forcing foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such. Despite the support, however, states continue to reject these initiatives.
Taylor Zimmerman's insight:

The issue of labeling genetically modified organisms in food (or GMOs) has been around for quite some time but only recently is gaining traction in the public light. As more and more Americans are learning about food and its genetic modification, they are fighting for more litigation and some legal changes. While the topic of GMOs used to be a latent issue, the public has become more aware of the problem and some have even taken more active approaches to seeing GMOs discontinued or clearly labeled on all packaging (Guth & Marsh, pg 268).

 

Here, in this article, the author mentions that the majority of Americans want to see GMOs labeled on packaging. That is to say, if an organization uses genetically modified food in their food production, it must be clearly labeled in the ingredients section of the nutrition facts.

 

It seems like this might be a non-issue, but several opposing groups have taken up the task of fighting against this movement. Monsanto, Nestle and many other big food corporations have poured millions of dollars into advertising and lobbying to persuade the American public to vote no on GMO labeling bills.

 

These companies argue that sometimes having the public aware of all the ingredients used is not the best thing. Monsanto argues that they have done all the necessary testing to make sure that GMOs are safe and by labeling them on packaging, it would cause economic problems. People would not buy their products because they feared something that shouldn’t be feared.

 

Framing the argument is very important in this case. When we discussed the library case in class, we talked about how PR professionals can frame arguments a better way – a vote for the library went from being solely focused on taxes to a new emphasis on reading and education.   

 

As political activists fight for GMO labeling, their message runs under the banner of liberty, saving the environment and refusing to treat children as science experiments. Those fighting against the measure say their motivation is to save businesses from consumer bias.

 

Even though the article cited 60% of Americans agreeing that GMOs should be labeled, those lobbying for GMO labeling still haven’t had a substantial win. Ultimately, as GMO bills and measures continue to come out in more and more cities, the PR people of these campaigns need to have more meaningful conversations with the consumer turning latent readiness into active participation.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Taylor Zimmerman
Scoop.it!

Chick-Fil-A Working to Remove Dyes, Corn Syrup

Chick-Fil-A Working to Remove Dyes, Corn Syrup | Frankenfood and PR | Scoop.it
Chick-fil-A says it's removing high-fructose corn syrup from its white buns and artificial dyes from its sauces and dressings as part of a push to improve its ingredients.
Taylor Zimmerman's insight:

At the very beginning of any public relations class, professors emphasize one phrase far above any other phrase in communicating with our publics: two-way communication (Guth & Marsh, pg. 1). In theory, consumers listen to organizations by reading the copy that they produce and organizations listen to their publics through surveys, profit analytics and letters. When referring to their audience however, organizations typically do not invite individuals to come and tell them how to run their business…usually.

 

The problem with Chick Fil A in this article is the restaurant’s previous use of artificial food coloring, high fructose corn syrup, and chemically-processed peanut oil. Food blogger, Vani Hari, publicly called out Chick Fil A in 2011 for the chemicals it uses in its products and encouraged the company to take a more “natural” approach to food. Most restaurants choose to favor processed foods for their little cost and appetizing appeal (i.e. yellow food dye makes chicken noodle soup more appealing). While it’s easy to call out a restaurant on their food making practices, it’s not always easy to convince them to spend more money for little benefit.

 

Typically, the story would end here with Hari’s post disappearing into cyberspace and Chick Fil A continuing to rake in the money; however, having great PR people, Chick Fil A responded differently.

Representatives at the company invited Hari to their headquarters to consult with them on changing their ingredients. After a year of follow up meetings, the restaurant sent Hari a letter indicating all of the changes they were making in their product by removing yellow dyes in their soup, removing HCFC and dyes from their dressings, and using a greener peanut oil.

 

On page 170 of Guth & Marsh, the authors discuss tactics of marketing in public relations and list open houses/tours and responses to consumer contacts. These are tactics that a business can use to create and sustain consumer loyalty to their brand.

 

Hopefully, Chick Fil A will use this opportunity to not only make more changes toward a less processed food product but will also use advertising to their advantage as they highlight the fact that they reached out to an unsatisfied customer, brought her into their office, listened to her suggestions and is actually implementing many of them.

 

While most corporations would have just sent an “I’m sorry” gift card, Chick Fil A went the extra step in listening to their public and making changes as necessary.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Taylor Zimmerman
Scoop.it!

Kraft Agrees to Take Yellow Dye Out of Mac and Cheese

Kraft Agrees to Take Yellow Dye Out of Mac and Cheese | Frankenfood and PR | Scoop.it
The new natural color will come from spices like paprika. It will also contain more whole grains and less sodium and saturated fat.
Taylor Zimmerman's insight:

While globalization and international business practices have boomed these past several decades, businesses and their publics are still adapting to changes in the business audience, manufacturing methods and changing laws between countries.

 

Center, et al. in Public Relations Practices argue that in a capitalist society (which most of the Western world promotes) competition is the culprit for lacking ethics in corporations (pg 320). While intuition would advise a corporation to consistently churn out a quality product and maintain strict standards, competition and the drive to have the most inexpensive, most commercially available product wins out. Thus, this leaves many organizations producing products that could potentially have harmful effects on their publics.

 

In Adventures in Public Relations on page 247-248, the authors describe several ethical philosophies that a corporation can embody when dealing with the public: Kantianism, virtue ethics, Rawls’ theory of justice, utilitarianism and agape. While most corporations tend to take on a utilitarian ethic when dealing with business practices, at what point does utilitarianism best serve the business or best serve the public…and which public? These are the sort of questions Kraft has brought up in this case study.

 

Again, this is another case of an organization doing nothing illegal. Britain has strict laws for labeling food coloring so to avoid losing their audience, Kraft removed food coloring from their UK products. The United States on the other hand has no such laws, and Kraft is obligated to do nothing about food additives in the American market. 

 

While this serves a utilitarian purpose by segmenting the different consumer bodies and appeasing each of their values (UK – No Food Additives and US – Cheap Product), it obviously leaves Kraft open to criticism. The reason food dyes are strictly controlled in the UK is that researchers have argued that petroleum-based food coloring has negative effects on children, the primary market for mac ‘n cheese. Kraft obviously had knowledge of this from their business dealings with the UK and chose to ignore it in the US.

 

Of course, kudos should be given to Kraft as they are making initial steps to change their product for their US audience. After  ~350,000 individuals came forward asking to change the food coloring in their mac ‘n cheese, Kraft chose to begin making steps in that direction.

 

However, I do question their tactics. In the ABC article, Kraft mentions not changing their recipe as a result of the signatures, but rather for some other undisclosed reason. Shouldn’t they want to give the perception that they are listening to their audience?

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Taylor Zimmerman
Scoop.it!

Monsanto Calls Glyphosate 'Safe' after AP Report

Monsanto Calls Glyphosate 'Safe' after AP Report | Frankenfood and PR | Scoop.it
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) â€" Monsanto Co.
Taylor Zimmerman's insight:

Whenever I read of any corporation’s newest public blunder, I immediately think in terms of how they respond via Benoit’s Image Restoration Theory. While that is applicable here in how Monsanto representatives essentially denied and attacked the accuser (the Associated Press), the greater theme of this corporate problem is ethics. On page 246 of Adventures in Public Relations, authors Guth and Marsh talk about social responsibility and how corporations are accountable to their publics.

Society exists in a balance. While there is the initial understanding that organization A is providing people B with a product in exchange for currency, there is an underlying expectation that people B will continue to support organization A as long as it maintains safe practices and provides a superior product. Unfortunately in the world of corporate greed and corner-cutting, corporations don’t always live up to the ethical standard placed upon them as is now the case with Monsanto.

Several months ago information about Starbucks came to light that they were exploiting loopholes in British tax law to pay less for their coffee and then cut less in taxes to the UK government. While everything Starbucks did was essentially legal, their public refused to let them off easily. Why? There was an expectation, a nonverbal, presupposed social contract that the people would continue to support Starbucks as long as they behaved ethically. The only thing that ended up satisfying the public was for Starbucks to pay their taxes the way that the law intended.

This newest case with Monsanto very much mirrors the case with Starbucks. Here we have a potentially carcinogenic ingredient being used in Monsanto’s herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides. While Monsanto is comfortable hiding behind the EPA and the FDA by stating their approval of glyphosate for safe use in agriculture, the Argentinian public (and the international public) is having none of it. Guth and Marsh talk about this sort of blurring of lines on page 243 stating that several organizations use the law to define ethics. This is Monsanto’s focus by not only attacking researchers studying glyphosate and the Associated Press but then also hiding behind the law. Monsanto seems to forget that the FDA/EPA are organizations that can and do frequently change  the safety status of substances when given new information and after conducting new studies.

Ultimately, it might behoove Monsanto to adopt a posture similar to Starbucks by taking the more expensive high road if it means gaining loyal fans.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Taylor Zimmerman
Scoop.it!

To thwart lawsuit, Pepsi claims Mountain Dew would dissolve a dead mouse

To thwart lawsuit, Pepsi claims Mountain Dew would dissolve a dead mouse | Frankenfood and PR | Scoop.it
Is this an example of winning the legal battle but losing the PR war?
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by Taylor Zimmerman
Scoop.it!

Rodent fur detected in Heinz Ketchup

Rodent fur detected in Heinz Ketchup | Frankenfood and PR | Scoop.it
Brazilian health officials discover traces of rodent fur in a batch of Mexican-produced Heinz ketchup.
Taylor Zimmerman's insight:

Sometimes the Public Relations field is not as glamorous as it first appears. Because our job is not only communicate with our audience but also to advocate for the client, we have to answer questions and do some damage control when controversies arise.

 

Thankfully, hundreds of PR professionals have gone before us and have seen what works and what utterly fails. Here, Heinz ketchup had to do some smoothing over when Brazil officials found rodent fur in a batch of ketchup in Brazil. While authorities in Mexico where the ketchup was bottled were doing an investigation of their own, the social media blogosphere has a mind of its own and within moments Heinz had to respond to this crisis.

 

On page 194 of the BP case study, we see William Benoit's strategies for image restoration. Benoit offers 14 strategies for public relations specialists to take in any crisis to restore their company's image: simple denial, shifting blame, provocation, defeasibility, accidents, good intentions, bolstering, minimization, differentiation, transcendence, attack accuser, compensation, corrective action, and mortification.   A company can choose to deny that the problem exists. They can launch a counter attack against the person(s) lobbying a complaint. They can accept some responsibility but differentiate who is the more guilty party in their organization. They can apology and move forward, or they can remain quiet for legal reasons. It's clear that Heinz took a variety of approaches including shifting blame, minimization, and defeasibility. They accepted some fault for the problem of contamination (after all it was their company and brand) but asked all correspondence to be forwarded to their Brazil office where the investigation was taking place. This way, they seemed to divert attention away from their corporate center and toward a fringe camp they might not have a lot of control over.

 

This makes sense and seems like a good decision from my perspective. First of all, when products are manufactured out of the state, a company has to deal with a different set of standards and a different set of laws. Anyone might make an allegation about their ketchup that could have come from anywhere. Since most of the people complaining where in the States, it was probably a smart idea to differentiate between American ketchup and ketchup made elsewhere. Seeing how it was a relatively small reaction, it might have been the best solution with the given information.

 

Ultimately, though, I will admit that Heinz has an obligation to maintain their corporate image and health standards outside the United States as well. In that aspect, I hope that Heinz is taking this situation seriously and a thorough investigation will go through.

more...
No comment yet.