Garden of Life, LLC released a rebranded version of its RAW Meal Organic Shake & Meal last Thursday, March 24th. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified the RAW Meal Organic Shake & Meal product as the source of an outbreak of Salmonella Virchow. The outbreak strain of Salmonella infected 27 people by the time Garden of Life implemented its marketing strategy. The CDC considers it an ongoing outbreak and expects more cases to be confirmed before the event is declared over.
Marketing Strategies After an Outbreak: the Chipotle Case Study
In the aftermath of a food poisoning outbreak, many people tend to steer clear of the implicated product. The numerous Chipotle outbreaks that have taken place over the past few months provide a prime example of this behavior pattern, its impact on business, and just how hard it is to overcome.
The restaurant chain’s December 2015 sales were down 30% from the previous year, an enormous drop evidencing a massive loss of consumer confidence and brand loyalty. The title of that article provides additional insight into the problems Chipotle was facing: “Chipotle Plans Marketing Campaign to Win Back Consumers.” A simple Google search related to Chipotle yields numerous similar results; headlines read “Here Are 12 Ways Chipotle Is Trying to Win Back Our Trust,” “Chipotle Set For Big Push To Win Back Customers,” and “Will Chipotle Ever Win Back its Customers?”
Chipotle, a corporate behemoth, can’t just change its products’ names and packaging and expect people not to notice or expect that the change is par for the course. Smaller companies, especially those that don’t market “fresh” foods, sometimes turn to this strategy as a last resort when their brands, in one way or another, become associated with negative customer feelings.
Garden of Life Rebrands RAW Meal Organic Shake & Meal As Outbreak Continues
As of March 24th, contaminated RAW Meal Organic Shake & Meal Products produced by Garden of Life, LLC, had caused at least 27 confirmed cases of Salmonella Virchow in 20 different states. Retail stores nationwide pulled the meal substitute powder from their shelves, citing concerns over potential illness. News reports and the CDC revealed that of the 27 confirmed outbreak cases, five had been so severe that the patient had to be hospitalized.
Garden of Life was faced with a single question: how to get consumers to continue purchasing a product known to have caused widespread illnesses and multiple hospitalizations. The company quickly generated an answer: change the product name and labeling, and keep almost every other aspect of the powder exactly the same.
“Many of you have been asking us when our newly formulated Raw Organic Meal will be available in stores and online,” according to the company’s press release. Ir continued, stating that the company is “happy to report that our popular shake and meal replacement powder, RAW Meal Organic Shake & Meal, is now called Raw Organic Meal and is available nationwide with a brand new look!”
Garden of Life made one substantive change: removal of moringa leaf powder from the mixture. The other changes all involve the product name and packaging. In a press release touting the “newly formulated” product, including packaging that “features bolder, eye-catching graphics” meant to highlight the fact that the “low glycemic, high protein” fiber shake is “Certified USDA Organic and Non-GMO Project verified,” the company reassures consumers that “diehard Raw Meal fans don’t need to worry because the delicious taste of all flavors has not changed!”
Given the lack of substantive changes to the product, that claim may well prove true.
The company’s announcement of their “newly formulated” product, which came on March 24th, was seemingly dwarfed by a CDC announcement confirming nine more outbreak cases of Salmonella in eight different states released the same day. The company has not commented further on sales of the rebranded product.