This week in Australia, we’ve had a major recall of Patties Foods frozen berries sold under the brands Nanna’s and Creative Gourmet. The berries have been linked to people contracting Hepatitis A. It appears that this is caused by poor sanitary standards from fruit packed in China.
This has resulted in serious damage to China’s brand reputation, particularly for fresh food but local Australian brands are also sharing the pain. Patties Foods, Nanna’s and Creative Gourmet will now have to spend years shaking of the brand perception of faeces-infected fruit and, worse still, justify why an Australian brand is not an Australian product.
Patties Foods have been slammed on social media and their crisis management is only just beginning. The brands are severely damaged and may struggle to recover. The brand problem may also spread from their frozen berries to its other products as consumers react sharply.
On the Nanna’s Facebook page you will find hundreds of frustrated customers. “If you used Australian grown berries in your products you wouldn’t have this problem! PLEASE support Australian farmers!!!!!!! AND protect Australian consumers!!!” says Katrina Plus Cain.
Many people, like Tanya Wolf Prašnički, are also linking this to a bigger problem of an Australian brand that is not truly Australian. There is a sense that people feel cheated.
“I find it absolutely appalling that Patties Foods prides itself on being an Australian company built from humble beginnings, but imports frozen fruit from third world countries because it’s cheaper and the profits are bigger… Who cares that the hygiene in these countries is significantly lower than in our own, who cares that we are not supporting our Australian farmers and our Australian economy, as long as we make our money the health and safety of our consumers is not really a priority.”
“This should be a massive wake up call to all the Australian people to stop buying products imported from overseas when our produce is much fresher and cleaner than our overseas counterparts,” adds Wolf Prašnički.
While some are saying this is an opportunity for the Australian fruit growers, lax labelling laws make this extremely challenging for consumers. A quick review of frozen berries in the supermarket freezer makes it extremely difficult to be sure it contains Australian fruit. At best, you will find misleading statements that tell you ‘packed in Australia from local and imported ingredients.
For brands that are authentically 100% Australian, there is an opportunity to reinforce differentiation while consumers are listening. While it might be hard to find and true Aussie frozen berries, there are plenty of other fair dinkum Aussie food brands. If you are a brand manager of a true Aussie brand, you might want to dial up your brand story to emphasise how and where your product is grown, sourced and packed.
In particular, one brand we helped create, ‘Get Farmed’, has nothing to hide and a great story to tell.
Managing Partner, Strategy