by | Oct 23, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

By Deborah Wroe

Picture the scene….back to back meetings from breakfast, approaching lunch, starving, nip in Tesco Express, grab sandwich, grab drink, approach till, grab packet of Walkers cheese and onion from handy display, rush home, stuff face – arghhhhh, that doesn’t taste like cheese and onion, grab glasses, read pack  – CHUFFING HOG ROAST!

Yep, my packet of crisps was in fact Hog Roast, made with real Norfolk Pork, masquerading as cheese and onion. I haven’t (hadn’t) eaten meat for 20 years and a decision by Walkers to stick its new real meat flavour in a remarkably similar packet to my trusted cheese and onion changed all that – along with, I admit, a rush shop on my part.

In my defence your honour:-

  • Supermarket layout is a science, tried and tested formulas, there are always the best sellers by the till; cheese and onion, ready salted and salt and vinegar.
  • Blue means cheese and onion (Walkers have made it so, and this is also scientifically tried and tested. I did an experiment on my Facebook page, and posted a pic of the offending crisps with the flavour redacted, 8 out of 10 said cheese and onion)
  • I was hungry OK!
  • I didn’t have my specs on

Obviously once I had swilled my mouth out with heavy duty mouthwash and drank 10 litres of water to flush the hog out of my system I posted an ‘indignant of Oldham’ message on Walkers’ Facebook page. The result was an email of the ‘thanks for your comments variety’, a pdf document containing details of all their products that are veggie (about 95%) and a promise of vouchers through the post.

So, why, with all those products that are veggie friendly did they choose to put real meat in packaging so close to cheese and onion? How many people were in on that decision making process? How many focus groups? External agencies? Senior management? And yet no common sense was applied.

According to the Vegetarian Society website, there are 1.2 million veggies* in the UK, that’s a big chunk of people to p*** off, and whilst we might be pale and weak we can’t half shout.

After doing some quick research I found out that Hog Roast is only available at the moment in Tesco, and only for a limited period. It’s a competition winning product as part of ‘Tesco do us a favour’. I also found out that Walkers only introduced real meat into a few products quietly in February this year which caused a right to do amongst vocal veggies, (full story here) due to them not being made aware. Lesson learned then? Nope, it seems not.

It’s about managing customer expectations and flipping telling people when something fundamental changes. And I don’t just mean the wolf in sheep’s clothing that in this case is a pig masquerading as cheese.

We often talk of ‘great idea but poor execution’, and good execution of a poor idea. Having real ingredients in products is fundamentally a good idea, but not if you don’t tell anyone. We also talk of great recovery after a fall – how a company handles negative PR, which can sort the wheat from the chaff. I received a £4 voucher as compensation along with the standard email, does that cut the mustard?

Essentially you want to get it right first time, which is now I guess an old fashioned idea that has been lost amongst the low hanging acorns in the pig pen of blue sky thinking.

As an addendum, I tweeted a warning of #cheeseandoniongate

‏@OwlDeborah Veggie alert! Walkers have put Hog Roast flavour crisps in a cheese & onion coloured pack, bought some, ate a mouthful – arghhhh

Which prompted a question from @castaignede What is it with gingers and vegetarianism?

So in an unrelated, but potentially interesting piece of research, are you veggie and ginger? Are we a niche sector, like the pink or grey pound…the ginger meat-free pound? Let me know in the comments.

* The current UK population is 62.3 million*. Most recent statistics indicate that 2% of adults and children are vegetarian (not eating meat or fish)**, this amounts to over 1.2 million individuals. (*Office for National Statistics, ** National Diet and Nutrition Survey, 2012)