15 April 2024
kelloggs crisis communications battle

Kellogg’s avoids Crisis Communications disaster despite losing UK Government high-sugar cereals legal battle

Kellogg’s, the parent company behind the likes of Crunch Nut Honey and Coco Pops today (June 4th) lost a landmark ruling around the how prominent its less healthy breakfast cereals can be displayed in supermarkets.

The Kellogg’s v UK Government Crisis Communications situation

The UK Government’s Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) issued a new edict around how and where less healthy foods can be displayed in supermarkets and on supermarket websites. 54% of Kellogg’s breakfast related products are classed by the DHSC as being “less healthy” under the new rules that are due to come in next year (2023).

Kellogg’s took the decision to challenge the new rules via legal action, with the main crux of its argument being that the products are not designed, marketed or sold with the guidance that they should be consumed without milk (Ed Note, I have simplified the legal argument, more details can be read here).

Some Crisis Communications observers, including myself, speculated that this was a risky strategy by Kellogg’s in that it would be easy for the DHSC to defend itself, especially when the Government can point to a growing UK obesity crisis across all age groups and demographics.

How did Kellogg’s Handle the Crisis Communications Issue?

The cereal giant handled the situation very well considering the potential consequences of its actions and also the fact they actually lost the legal challenge. The company used its most senior person, UK Managing Director Chris Silcock, to issue a statement after the judge handed down the ruling and this is Crisis Communications 101.

The statement was short, punchy, and in line with the advice typically given by crisis communications specialists, did not mention the company name anywhere. In addition, the comment also referenced the very topical “cost of living” crisis and how the decision would not help consumers in the long run.

“We still believe that it is important that cereals are measured in a way which reflects how most people eat them – with milk,”

“We also remain concerned at the way the government introduced these regulations – which, in our view, was without proper parliamentary scrutiny.

“By restricting the placement of items in supermarkets, people face less choice and potentially higher prices.

“That’s why, in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, we would strongly urge the government to rethink these regulations and put the consumer first.”

Chris Silkcock, MD, Kellogg’s UK

In reality, Kellogg’s could not have handled the potential Crisis Communications situation better than it did.

The company has drawn a line under the matter via its statement and although it had said previously that the original decision by the DHSC could cost it £5m in lost revenue in the UK, I am sure that the company has sufficient brand strength to still be in demand from its core target audience, kids.

Crisis Comms Brand Risk Score: 5/10

Crisis Communications Management Score: 8/10

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