ConAgra planned an evening with food bloggers and celebrity chef George Duran of TLC’s Ultimate Cake-Off at an underground Italian restaurant. The bloggers were told they would receive a four-course meal and discuss food issues with industry analyst Phil Lempert.
Except ConAgra had a PR move up their sleeve.
Smile, You’re On Candid Camera
Following in the successful footsteps of others like Domino’s and Pizza Hut, PR agency Ketchum planned to serve Marie Callender’s frozen food products in place of chef-prepared meals. At the end, as the bloggers were promised, there would be an “unexpected surprise” and the big reveal.
Unfortunately for ConAgra, the bloggers were not amused.
“We were unwilling participants in a bait-and-switch for Marie Callender’s new frozen three cheese lasagna and there were cameras watching our reactions,” Mom Confessionals’ Suzanne Chan wrote later in a blog.
Others were upset the very issues they were discussing with Lempert and others — chemicals, sodium and other issues in processed foods — were the very things they were being served.
The Taste Of A Backlash
“I’m NOT their target consumer and they were totally off by thinking I would buy or promote their highly processed frozen foods after tricking me to taste it,” ChubbyChineseGirl blogger Cindy Zhou says.
ConAgra’s PR director Stephanie Moritz issued an apology.
“It was never our intention to put any bloggers or their guests in an uncomfortable position and for that we are sorry,” she said.