Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sticky Situation Suggests Selling Safety Up Front

The recent peanut butter fiasco – in which salmonella was found at the point of production and hundreds of products were recalled – brings up some sticky issues in retail marketing and consumer behavior (yes, the pun was intended. Sorry). Even with contemporary concerns about peanut allergies, sales of peanut butter remain consistent and high in America. Like macaroni and cheese, pasta, tuna, and other pantry staples, peanut butter seemed recession-proof. But concerns about food safety are another matter altogether. Given that Americans consume an enormous amount of peanut butter and that this is one of the largest food recalls in recent history, the food industry has a bit of a problem on its hands. The New York Times reports that companies are taking some defensive measures.

“The drop-off is so striking that brands like Jif are taking the unusual step of buying ads to tell shoppers that their products are not affected, and giving them a coupon to make sure they do not learn to live without a staple that almost every child loves — and more than a few of their parents, too.
While food companies are working to stop the drop, it might be worth considering this as a good object lesson in marketing: consider what’s going to be most important to consumers in the near and not-so-distant future, when their dollars are stretched and confidence in corporate entities wavers with each step in the process. First, health is what we could call a “super value” in American society – it supercedes many others and intersects with our sense of rights and entitlements as citizens and consumers. Health concerns are partly why many people shift to organic and green products, maintaining those practices even when budgets are tight. When we’re dealing with food and safety concerns, people exhibit a combination of desires: individual control and energy spent on well-being combined with a sense that government and other institutions should protect them from the most egregious risks. According to policy and industry experts, we're going to see more of the latter in the future, especially with new concerns about "bioterror."

While there’s a whole host of complicated reasons why the salmonella outbreak happened – and we will, in all likelihood, see renewed vigilance from federal agencies who supervise the food industry as well as new mechanisms to trace the sources of problems more quickly - it behooves marketers to consider pro-active marketing that touts their compliance and engagement in national food safety standards. In some cases, it makes sense for industry to construct and enact its own protocol -- but in the case of food, it will be more and more important for companies to also align themselves with national directives.


Anonymous said...

Great information - hopefully would be usefull in all aspect, i think you have done great effort for writing this Thanks - i will edit and use it in my health shop site www.healthshopuk.co.uk

Annie said...

Thanks! Keep in mind that the US government's response to this is still evolving. Today Vilsack announced that they are going to call for greater oversight and labeling of goods (especially meat, for example) for country of origin. They'll ask for voluntary compliance first and then if they're not satisfied, it'll be regulated. This is a critical juncture for food manufacturers, who can show that they are deeply concerned with safety in advance of crises and can be more pro-active.

see: www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5i6OlI7KYlz0607is_c0Ulb1aB4NgD96DS59G1