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Porcine DNA crisis: Did Cadbury manage communications well?

Recently, Cadbury Confectionery Malaysia recalled two batches of its chocolate products which have been tested positive for porcine DNA by the health ministry.

According to The Star, the samples from two types of chocolates out of three analysed tested positive for porcine DNA. They were Cadbury Dairy Milk Hazelnut, (batch number 200813M01H I2) expiring on November 13 and Cadbury Dairy Milk Roast Almond, (batch number 221013N01R I1) expiring on Jan 15, 2015.

The third sample of Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate however, did not contain any non-halal element. This is a serious issue for the majority Muslim market – consuming pork is strictly forbidden in Islam.

Cadbury has since recalled the two products, according to local media reports, saying: “We have taken immediate action by recalling the products from the above two batches. No other Cadbury chocolates are affected by this test.

We are undertaking a full review of the supply chain to ensure all quality standards continue to be met. We would like to reassure our consumers that all Cadbury Chocolates manufactured in Malaysia are halal-certified by JAKIM, which includes the locations and raw materials used in the production of these products. We employ stringent quality procedures to ensure that our products are of the highest standard of safety and quality.

Should you have any further questions, please get in touch with me, Raja Zalina Raja Safran, Head of Corporate Affairs, at rajazalina.rajasafran@mdlz.com or 012 276 2033.

Thank you for your continued support of Cadbury.”

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Also releasing a statement on its Facebook page, Cadbury Malaysia reassured its consumers that the rest of its chocolates are not affected by the test and that all its chocolates manufactured in Malaysia were halal-certified by JAKIM.

We asked experts on what they think about Cadbury’s comms strategy in dealing with the issue.

Founding director of Orchan Consulting, Farrell Tan thinks Cadbury Malaysia is handling the issue well. Besides their speedy response, and quick recall rate of the affected batches, they also seem to be cooperating well with the Ministry of Health on the next steps. But managing director of Precious Communications Lars Voedisch feels otherwise.

According to him, Cadbury did not address the issue as fast as they should and is not in control of the issue. “The perceived reality is that the rumours broke on social media first and then the government stepped in to order an investigation before the company took action and ordered recall. It makes the company look passive and reactive,” said Voedisch.

Both, however, said the company should acknowledge that it has done a mistake and apologise for it.

“By not issuing an apology and just acknowledging that it is an issue, it might be perceived that they are actually not that sincere about the problem and fixing it in the first place. They might be seen and lacking empathy and full understanding about the sincerity of this issue,” Voedisch adds.

As Cadbury didn’t get the news out fast enough – they’re on the back foot and are still owing the public an explanation how this could happen in the first place – before they can address how to avoid this in the future, he adds.

What should Cadbury do now?

Aside from reviewing its supply chain to ensure that quality standards Cadbury and working with an independent accredited body and JAKIM to highlight that changes have been implemented, Tan’s suggestion for Cadbury is that it creates PR campaign which educates its consumers on its products.

“Through the campaign consumers can learn about where its beans are sourced from, the process of making its chocolates and right down to how the chocolates are packaged and delivered to various channels of distribution,” he says.

However, Tan says the brand may be affected for a short period of time, and this too, shall pass.

“This is the first time an incident such as this has taken place, and judging by the way it’s being handled, I think consumers will eventually forgive and forget. The brand has a strong legacy and history with Malaysians; therefore, it will weather the storm,” he adds.

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

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