Three lessons in PR: supermarket responses to the horse saga

In Customer Engagement by Oliver Arscott

Tesco, Aldi, Iceland, PR, Horsemeat

Alongside falling meteors, a retiring Pope and plenty of snow, one of the biggest stories of the year so far has been the discovery in the UK of equine DNA posing as beef. Now that the dust has settled on the story (as well as, presumably, on whatever remains of tonnes of hurriedly disposed of horse flesh), it is a good time to go back and review how three of the biggest supermarkets embroiled in the scandal tried to reassure the public as well as saving face.



Sir Philip Clarke: “It’s clear that the longer a supply chain and the more borders it crosses, the less traceable our food is and the more the chain is open to negligence at best, fraud and criminal activity at worst… We now need the supermarkets to stop scouring the world for the cheapest products they can find and start sourcing high-quality, traceable product from farmers here at home.”

"I have asked my team to review our approach to the supply chain, to ensure we have visibility and transparency, and to come back with a plan to build a world class traceability and DNA testing system… We pledge that over the weeks and months ahead, we will open up our supply chain, and give you more information than any retailer has before to enable you to make informed choices about the food you buy for your family."



Spokesman: “This is completely unacceptable and like other affected companies, we feel angry and let down by our supplier. If the label says beef, our customers expect it to be beef. Suppliers are absolutely clear that they are required to meet our stringent specifications and that we do not tolerate any failure to do so.”



Malcolm Walker: "If we are going to blame somebody let's start with local authorities because there is a whole side to this industry that is invisible, that is the catering industry; schools hospitals, it is massive business for cheap food and local authorities award contracts based purely on one thing: price.

"If you're looking to blame somebody who is driving down food quality, it is invisible: it's schools, it's hospitals, it's prisons, it's local authorities who are driving this down."

"Personally I wouldn't eat value supermarket products because they won't contain much meat. There will be other things in there. There will be rusk, or filler, or whatever it is."


How did Tesco, Aldi and Iceland do? What could they have done better or worse? Comments below…


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