Back in December a Montreal-based company, Fontaine Santé, detected the possibility of Listeria Monocytogenes in their pre-packaged salads.
Fontaine Santé Foods Inc. is a widely distributed North American food company that prides itself on quality ingredients, preservative-free, ready-to-eat produce.
At the time of this discovery, the potentially contaminated salads had already been distributed and purchased by many. As you can imagine, this was a serious crisis that demanded immediate attention.
Note: Listeria is an odorless, colorless contamination that can cause high fever, neck stiffness and nausea if consumed. It is especially dangerous for pregnant women, the elderly and people with low or weakened immune systems.
This was a big deal. We’re talking high risk food contamination. This potential crisis could have quickly lead to a potential lawsuit, along with major brand repercussions that could have potentially destroyed the brand’s long-lasting credibility and reputation with their stakeholders.
So why is it that not only were there no reports of illness, but instead of a disastrous crisis, their customers and fans loyally rose up and began to praise and defend the brand?
Simply put, this is a case of a fantastic crisis response. It was simple, timely and effective. Let’s take a look:
- Upon realization of the potential contamination, Fontaine Santé immediately seised all production of their pre-packaged salads.
- An immediate recall was issued on all potentially contaminated produce.
- Fontaine Santé quickly posted a well-written official response to their corporate website.
- They utilized the media (press releases, television media, etc) as well as their social media channels to spread the message and make sure that all consumers were aware of the situation.
Their crisis response was to the point, findable and effective, but the real magic behind it was their quick-to-act mindset, and the tremendous care they showed their customers. You can see their no b.s. approach to the crisis, and how seriously they took it, by reading the official response they published to their corporate website:
***IMPORTANT NOTICE TO OUR CUSTOMERS***
We have discovered the possible presence of listeria in some of our salads. Upon learning this information, production was halted immediately and all salads were recalled from the retailers.
We want to reassure consumers: nobody has been affected and we invite those who still have the products identified by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to bring them back to retailers to get reimbursed. We are working closely with the CFIA to ensure this problem does not happen again.
You can contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 1-888-627-2683.
See below for the list of recalled products: […]
The secrets behind this crisis response:
- Fontaine Santé opened the post with a no beating-around-the-bush statement that addressed the issue head-on.
- They clearly stated what their actions were in response to this terrible discovery.
- They reassured customers that nobody had been affected.
- They offered to reimburse their customers – which, in the minds of their stakeholders, is only fair and appropriate.
- They clearly stated what they were doing to make sure that this situation never happened again.
- They provided consumers with direct contact information, opening up the lines for dialogue.
- They made sure that no mistakes would be made by providing a detailed list of all potentially contaminated food.
In my opinion, the only thing that they didn’t do that would have made this response even more thorough and complete, was to apologize for the situation and the inconvenience it caused their customers. But the fact of the matter is that their quick response and immediate actions worked effectively. What could very well have turned into a full blown crisis – complete with lawsuit, loss of reputation and customers – turned into nothing of the sort.
Fontaine Santé recovered from this situation with minimum repercussions to their brand, and an even stronger loyal fan base who appreciated their actions in such a potentially disastrous situation. Well done, Fontaine Santé!
Author of Crisis Ready: Building an Invincible Brand in an Uncertain World, Melissa Agnes is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. Agnes is a coveted keynote speaker, commentator, and advisor to some of today’s leading organizations faced with the greatest risks. Learn more about Melissa and her work here.