Food Safety – Restoring Public Confidence

It’s not if, but when a food crisis occurs, will your food brand be ready? Apron’s research team surveyed 850 people to uncover their greatest food fears and the list may surprise you.

When asked which foods consumers worried about most, the following five rose to the top:

  1. Seafood
  2. Meat
  3. Prepared/take out foods
  4. Fresh produce
  5. Dairy products

Uncovering the food fears was only part of the study. As PR people, we really wanted to know what brands had to do to regain trust from consumers after a food crisis.

The short answer is this: Once the public decides a food product is unsafe, winning back confidence is tough. According to our research, the starting point is to present scientific evidence using recognized and credentialed health experts as the messengers. The standard and over-used practices of issuing apologies or developing re-purchase incentives doesn’t register as a reason to believe the food is once again safe. Even long established beloved brands cannot get away with just saying “I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.”

The story around the Blue Bell ice cream recall serves as a cautionary tale of the role food safety plays in any food company’s brand value.

At least 10 listeria cases – three of them fatal – were linked to ice cream from Blue Bell. The company’s first response was a public apology from the CEO. Because of Blue Bell’s prominence and brand halo, consumers were willing to accept their apology and move on… until the rest of the story emerged.

Blue Bell had known about listeria issues as early as 2007, and because they were not required to report those findings, decided to say nothing to the FDA. The crisis resulted in a series of unfortunate events for the beloved Blue Bell; including, close calls with bankruptcy, lay-offs and furloughs.

Ultimately, Blue Bell pulled it out, but they could have sped their brand recovery if they would have taken steps to increase their company culture of food safety and properly prepared themselves for the inevitable… a food crisis.

They believed they were invincible and struggled to make it out. Who really knows what hides behind the Blue Bell accounting books… but we know they could have done better to mitigate the damage.

If you would like to talk about your brand’s food safety and crisis preparedness plan, give us a call, we’ve got you covered.