When it comes to ketchup, Canadians are patriotic about what they squeeze on their fries.
Loblaws’ brief decision to stop selling French’s ketchup was swiftly met with backlash from Canadian consumers and forced the grocery giant to rethink its decision Tuesday.
Social media posts blasted the grocery giant for dropping French’s ketchup, which boasts it’s made from Canadian tomatoes. The hashtag #ketchupgate was trending on Twitter, and even Ontario politicians jumped into action with Liberal MPP Mike Colle threatening to launch a boycott of Loblaws.
“The sense of Canadian own and Canadian grown was something that caught the attention of the consumer,” said Tony Chapman, a consumer expert with tonychapmanreactions.com. “The consumer said I’m willing to buy beyond my immediate gratification … because they wanted to support Canadian farms and Canadian manufacturing. ”
The supermarket retailer, which had dropped the condiment due to poor sales, reversed its decision.
“We’ve heard our Loblaws customers,” said Kevin Groh, Loblaws vice-president of corporate affairs and communication, in a statement. “We will re-stock French’s ketchup and hope that the enthusiasm we are seeing in the media and on social media translates into sales of the product.”
The uproar over the condiment goes back to 2014, when Heinz shut down its plant in Leamington, Ont., and moved ketchup production to the United States. Almost 750 employees lost their jobs, and surrounding tomato growers lost contracts.
Food processing company Highbury Canco bought the plant and began producing products like tomato paste. The U.S.-based French’s announced in January it would make its ketchup from Leamington tomatoes. A facility in Toronto manufactures the company’s ketchup that ends up in restaurants, while an Ohio plants makes the condiment in grocery stores.
“Canadian consumers realized that their wallets contain power,” Chapman said, adding he hopes more consumers look for brands with Canadian ingredients or processed in the country.
Here are some other examples of how consumer outrage has led to public apologies, company retractions and re-introduction of beloved brands.
During a 2013 television appearance, Lululemon Athletica founder Chip Wilson quickly drew the ire of some of his female customers when he said their signature yoga pant does not work for some women.
“The thing is women will wear seat belts that do not work, or they will wear a purse that does not work,” said Wilson, appearing on Bloomberg TV. “Or quite frankly, some women’s bodies actually do not work for it.”
He issued an apology days later saying: “I’m sad for the repercussions of my actions, I’m sad for the people of Lululemon who I care so much about, that have really had to face the brunt of my actions.”
In 2014, Spanish clothing retailer Zara pulled a striped kid’s shirt featuring a yellow star over backlash from social media users, who compared it was similar to the clothing worn by Jewish prisoners in concentration camps.
The blue and white striped shirt aimed at children aged three months to three years old, featured a six-point yellow star on the front left side. The star had the word “sheriff” written on it, but was not clearly visible on the clothing chain’s website.
A beloved condiment across North America, Sriracha sold under the brand Huy Fong, which features a rooster on the front of the bottle, ran into trouble in 2013 at its plant near Los Angeles, California after residents complained about strong smells.
After a judge threatened to close the plant, fans of the hot sauce around the world were outraged. The lawsuit was dropped in 2014 after the company said it would address the spicy-air complaints.
One of the most famous instances of a company succumbing to public pressure was in 1985 when Coca-Cola introduced a reformulation of its drink recipe called “New Coke.”
Faced with a loss in sales to Pepsi, Coca-Cola introduced a new formula that was slightly sweeter, said Chapman.
“The public outcry was crazy,” he said. “It’s a great example where the consumer backlash demanding their old Coke was so great that Coca-Cola had no choice.”
The company quickly brought back its original formula under the brand “Coca-Cola Classic.”Follow @andyruzzell
© 2016 Shaw Media