When word got out on social media that the irreplaceable mainstay of the Easter holiday, the Cadbury Crème Egg, was being fucked with, the virtual table-flipping and wall-punching could not be contained. British CCE fans are getting the shaft this year because six-packs are now five-packs at the same price, while furious Americans took to Twitter to go off over the chocolate egg shell recipe being altered. But it turns out Hershey's distributes the eggs stateside and America's batch isn't changing after all. Sorry, U.K.
Customers raging over unwanted changes (read: fuck-ups) of cherished products has caused trouble on more than one occasion; here's a list of Five WTF moments with a few of our beloved food products.
5) Where's the beef?
This "mostly-meat-but-other-stuff" scandal with Taco Bell is fairly recent, but any WTF moments had over it were nothing compared to how the Bell came out of it. In 2011 an Alabama law firm filed a lawsuit against Taco Bell for misleading customers about the seasoned beef used in its tacos, claiming trickery by the use of filler products like oats. Taco Bell ran a brilliant media strategy of defense and offense, sharing the beef recipe, using print ads and social media (the company gave away something like ten million coupons for free tacos: fucking genius) and basically told customers to relax, forget about the bullshit lawsuit, and eat more tacos. As it turned out, that's exactly what happened, because the Bell proclaiming its taco meat was eighty-eight percent beef and twelve percent other stuff was good enough for everyone to stop griping and keep eating.
I don't know what was funnier: the we-don't-give-a-shit attitude Taco Bell had about the whole scandal, or the we-give-even-less-of-a-shit response from customers.
4) Dasani bottled water taps out
By the early 2000s, mass-produced bottled water was becoming more of a household staple than a luxury, but some consumers still wanted to believe their bottles were filled every day from magical mountain waterfalls, and purified with glowing quartz crystals and fairy piss. These folks got a huge kick in the reality in 2004 when it was revealed that Coca-Cola's water brand Dasani consisted of municipal water, albeit purified and with minerals added. The outcry was swift and the disbelief palpable, but in this case, was it really that consumers were misled, or was it really that they chose to be self-deceiving hype-clingers? Either way, Dasani is still around with no ill-effects and customers are still buying plastic bottles filled with glorified tap water.
Brand equity, bitches.
3) Beech-Nut's apple juice -- minus the apples
In the 1980s, back before mainstream consumers were overly-concerned about things like GMOs, sourcing, organic ingredients and labeling issues, parents who bought Beech-Nut apple juice for their thirsty tots got gobsmacked with the revelation that the one-hundred percent apple juice they were dumping into sippy cups was in fact zero percent apple juice, but instead a mixture of sugars and water. Yummy. The FDA left Beech-Nut two million dollars poorer after a federal indictment; prosecutors asserted that the fakery was perpetrated because sugar water was cheaper to make than apple juice. Fake apple juice concentrate was paraded around, lying labels were used, and whatever cash the feds didn't get was probably used for the $7.5 million class action settlement for duped retailers and consumers.
Beech-Nut, no longer peddling snake oil, has changed hands a few times, stopped using refined sugar in its products, and is now focusing on natural baby foods (the apple and aronia berry dessert looks tasty).
2) McDoo's beefs up its French fries
In 2002 McDonald's coughed up $10 million to vegetarian groups for sort-of tricking them into eating beef. The sort-of part comes when the company admitted to adding beef flavoring to its vegetable oil -- resulting in delicious but meat-tainted French fries -- and then making sure the general fry-munching public was aware that the company never claimed the fries were vegetarian-friendly. McDonald's did specify that they used one-hundred percent vegetable oil to cook the fries, which was true, but they did neglect to mention the beef flavoring part, which obviously made meatless folks really, really grossed out and mad. But they said they were sorry for the labeling mishap, ditched the beefy flavoring, and went on to sell a gajillion-frillion more orders of fries since then.
There is a tiny, selfish, horrible part of my brain that wishes McD's had the inclination to maintain separate frying stations and could make the beefy fries an option -- labeled as such, of course.
1. We've been pink slimed!
Was there anyone in the universe who didn't hear all about the pink slime? 2012 was the year everyone who has ever eaten a hamburger got a donkey-punch, because nobody knew what in the blazes pink slime was, and now I'm sure most people wish they never had. Pink slime is a cheap filler product made from left over fatty meat scraps, treated with ammonia, and used to augment burgers. Since there were no labeling requirements, the stuff was used in everything from school lunches to the ground beef in grocery stores. The months-long controversy over the safefy of ingesting it versus it just being nasty to think about was topped only by the massive witch-hunt to locate products containing the pink slime; major fast food chains like McDonald's, Burger King and Taco Bell (they were using it) publicly kicked it to the curb (if Taco Bell won't use it, you know it's gotta be severely sickening, right?).
This "soylent pink" used to be the stuff pet food was made of, so it's not strange that people got gaggy and pissed, but the company that produces the mush got their lawsuits on, and got asses and elbows into a media campaign to help stop the masses from freaking the fuck out about a product they had been manufacturing and successfully selling for years. With the media dust-up, the demand for the meat filler took a dive, but since then, in 2014, with rising beef prices, the demand for
pink slime finely textured beef is rising accordingly.
And the moral of this story is? Mainstream consumers may loudly protest their everyday food products being fucked with, but given enough time for the media frenzy to die down, they will forgive, forget, and keep buying the things they want.
Cadbury's beloved Crème eggs will likely survive a recipe change and smaller serving sizes because at the end of the day, consumers really do run out of fucks to give.
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