Time to give up the choccy bars?

Interesting to read that is unable to confirm which of its chocolate products are suitable for vegetarians and which will continue to contain “rennet, an animal enzyme which is taken from the stomachs of calves”.

The privately owned (the company behind Mars products) is an example of a closed systems organisation.  Its website is confusing with no public relations information, just a number to call the press office. 

Managing Director of the snack business, (cited in press coverage on the current issue) joined the company as a graduate trainee and has spent her entire career at Mars apart from a short period at Pepsi.  Which again evidences a closed culture within the organisation.

The current situation seems like an appalling management of public relations – the issue of the use of animal products in its chocolate was discovered by chance, leading to complaints by the public and members of parliament.

The made it very easy for people to complain by writing letters to their MPs, local newspapers and email Masterfoods (the company behind Mars in the UK).

So, good to see a reversal in the strategy?  Well, apparently not as it is unclear which products already on the shelves contain the animal extracts.  The advice is to contact the company to check and get a refund – and apology adverts have been placed, but without specific information about suitability of products for veggies.

Are Ms Dawson’s claims true that “There’s been no impact on sales – this has been about getting feedback from people who love our product“? Following on from its involvement in concerns about ,  and other food issues, shouldn’t Mars (and the other big chocolate brands) wake up to public health issues more pro-actively – and responsibly?

Despite claiming “Respect for the individual is at the heart of the Responsibility principle“, did no-one at Mars see the switch to animal extracts – and the secrecy behind the move as a reputational problem? 

I’ve written before about how companies increasingly view crisis management as a bolt on – and are more interested in “dodge and recover rather than genuine responsibility. “

On the other hand, this is a great reason to give up mainstream chocolate for good – Mars now joins and as frequently demonstrating poor consideration of their publics. 

In public relations, we advocate openness and honesty as part of crisis management – as well as two-way communications.  But surely this has to involve a commitment to avoid creating problems in the first place not just about how to protect the brand when caught out?

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.