We are still in the middle of summer and it is already a full summer in terms of reputational and communication crises. Coca-Cola had a moment of panic at the Eurocup, when Cristiano Ronaldo put away his bottles and recommended drinking water.
In Spain, the Dia supermarkets became the collateral damage of the reputation crisis of a ham brand. And now Nestlé is the latest protagonist of a food security crisis and the associated reputational problem.
The Nestlé crisis started a few days ago, when an alarm about ‘contaminated ice cream’ went off. The European Union requested the withdrawal from the market of those products that had been made using ethylene oxide, which were considered “not safe or suitable for consumption”.
The alert jumped after residues of this additive were found in some products. At first there were no names or brands, it was only known that they had been seen in ice cream. Now, however, it is clear which giant is affected. The ice creams are from Nestlé and several own brands, in a batch made by the manufacturer Froneri.
Among the brands directly affected are Nestlé, Milka, Toblerone, Nuii, Oreo, Princesa, La Lechera and Smarties ice creams.
The manufacturer, Froneri, has a notice on its website calling for calm (“even in the case of consumption of a product that could be affected by this incident, and based on external and own analyzes, it is very unlikely that it represents a risk to the health of consumers “, it reads) and with a system to check if the ice creams at home are affected. In a statement to the media, he insists that “only very specific batches of certain products are affected,” trying to defuse the crisis.
A growing crisis
Even so, the question has become one of those balls that keeps growing and growing. The FACUA-Consumidores en Acción organization has been very critical of Nestlé and the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition (Aesan), pointing out that only Mars, which also has a consignment of contaminated ice creams, has been transparent on its website with which ice creams have been affected.
For Nestlé, this has meant starring in news after news in recent days about contaminated ice cream. Interestingly – or perhaps not so much – Mars hardly appears in this news and if he does, it is a paragraph well on the subject.
This company has gained in brand perception because it has published a fairly clear list on its website of which ice creams have been affected and it has not been dragged down by complaints of being non-transparent about what is happening.
The crisis at Nestlé and its ice creams therefore shows that in situations of negative communication and reputational crises, brands must be as transparent as possible, or at least that they need that to be what consumers themselves perceive.
Trying to drain the package is never an option, because it will cause the crisis to run aground and the problem to become something much harder and dangerous for the image of the brand. Nestlé will now have to do damage control and correct that perception that has been settling in recent days that there is something wrong with its ice creams (when, in reality, it is a very limited problem at first, concentrated in a few batches and a few specific brands).