This week, no one learned the importance of â€śgoing viralâ€ť faster than Kashi and as a result, the Kellogg Companyâ€™s popular cereal is feeling the backlash!Â Â The cerealâ€™s controversy started about a week ago after a Rhode Island grocer refused to carry the cereal and posted a note on his store shelves, telling customers he wouldn’t sell Kashi because he found out the brand used genetically engineered, non-organic ingredients. Photos of the note began popping up on Facebook pages and food blogs as some consumers claimed Kellogg was misrepresenting its cereal.Â The picture is below:
If youâ€™re an avid social media user like the ladies at this Albany marketing agency, I am sure you have already seen this picture.
So what was this grocerâ€™s big beef with Kashi that started this social media whirlwind?Â Unbeknownst to consumers, he discovered the soy in Kashi cereals comes from soybeans that have had a gene inserted in them to protect them from the herbicide Roundup, which kills weeds. Â Â After speaking to the owner of The Green Grocer in Portsmouth, Rhode Island,Â USA TodayÂ reported the shelf tag wasn’t meant “to stir up trouble or cause controversy.”Â Â John Wood, owner of The Green Grocer, made the decision to remove Kashi after reading a report about what “natural” means in the cereal aisle by the Cornucopia Institute, an organic and agriculture policy group.
When consumers learned of Kashiâ€™s half-truths, they took their rage to the digital streets by posting on Kashiâ€™s Facebook page as well as other manufacturers of seemingly â€śorganicâ€ť cereals.Â Post from angry consumers can be seen on the Kashi Facebook page here:
David DeSouza, Kashi general manager, quickly came to the defense of the company when the picture went viral. Â ”Kashi has done nothing wrong,â€ť he stated. Â â€śThe FDA has chosen not to regulate the term ‘natural.â€™” Â The company defines natural as “food that’s minimally processed, made with no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or sweeteners.”
Kashi handled their PR crisis brilliantly.Â As soon as the picture surfaced on the internet, they posted a video to their Facebook page, as well as YouTube channel, from a Kashi nutritionist directly addressing the picture that was circulating.Â They answered their Facebook fanâ€™s questions and concerns about their product and continued to have an open dialogue with consumers.Â As the backlash continued, they posted another videoÂ for consumers, this time from Kashi General Manager, committing that by 2015, all new Kashi foods will contain at least 70% organic ingredients and will also be Non-GMO Project Verified.
As PR gurus, we know the importance of word-smithing and this is a classic case where,Â technically, Kashi did not mislead their consumers.Â Since the FDA does not regulate the term â€śnatural,â€ť they were technically not in the wrong.Â However, a major brand having a lack of transparency such as Kelloggâ€™s is not a way to instill trust in your consumers.
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