What Will It Take To Put A Lid On Britvic’s Recall Woes?

Britvic’s handling of the Fruit Shoot crisis has been swift and effective. Now comes the job of rebuilding consumer confidence. Britvic’s reaction to the Fruit Shoot Magicap packaging defect may one day be held up as a casebook example of a well-handled product recall in terms of the speed and effectiveness of its initial response. What remains to be seen is how the Fruit Shoot brand copes with the long-term fallout – which could be considerable.

When Britvic learned that a six-year-old boy had almost choked on a Robinsons Fruit Shoot cap – a design introduced just weeks previously – it followed the golden rules of dealing with such a situation, and pulled every drink that used the cap. They did everything right, with swift and appropriate action, says Consultant Hamish Renton, a view echoed by many in the industry. However, on 11 July, eight days after the initial recall, Britvic admitted it would be six weeks before it could start re-supplying drinks, and six months before it could meet historic levels of demand. And, as The Grocer went to press, it hadn’t revised those figures.

This has given rivals a golden opportunity to dent Fruit Shoot’s position at a time when its sales are in decline. Indeed, this fall in sales – 3.7% by value and 10% by volume in the year to 18 February – is likely to have played a role in prompting the introduction of the Magicap in the first place. Brands such as Capri-Sun and Ribena aren’t the only ones that stand to benefit from Fruit Shoot’s absence. Own-label offerings are being given extra facings and there’s an opportunity for both branded and own-label players to increase the number of variants they have on shelf. Although there has been little sign of increased promotional or ad activity yet, that will also be on the cards.

The question is; how easy will it be for Fruit Shoot to reclaim its territory after weeks or even months off shelf? While some observers feel the strength of the brand means retailers will welcome it back, others say Britvic will have to earn its place again. It will need to show, in quantifiable terms, that rate of sale and footfall in the fixture is down without Fruit Shoot, says Renton.

Retailers may argue Fruit Shoot can’t regain its rate of sale, and treat the brand as if it is a new launch, adds David Sables of Sentinel Management Consultants. Buyers could exploit the situation by demanding a listing fee in addition to penalties, he says.

When Fruit Shoot does go back on shelf, Britvic will need to convince shoppers to ditch whatever they’ve replaced it with in the interim. It will also need to offer assurances that the drinks brand is 100% safe. In this respect, it is in a better position than Cadbury was six years ago when salmonella contamination sparked a large-scale recall, according to Phil Rumbol, who is now a partner in advertising agency 101 but was marketing director for the confectioner at the time.

Salmonella is invisible, while this is a physical thing – so Britvic will be able to make it clear beyond doubt that the product has a new cap and it is no longer an issue, he says.

Claire Nuttall, senior partner at 1HQ, argues that the PR work should start now. This could be a chance for them to reconfirm themselves as a forward-thinking brand, she says. This should be considered an opportunity to re-engage and inspire. I suggest they think creatively about digital media in the next six weeks and the role it can play in softening the blow.

To learn more about the work that HRA Global has carried out to help Britvic, contact us.

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