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Food Industry Frets about Losing Consumers

Posted March. 24, 2008 03:16,   


○ Growing Concerns about Consumer Distrust

In regards to the recent food scandals, the Korea Food Industry Association issued an apology, saying, “The scope of damage is beyond expectation when people turn their back away from the food industry. We regret that we did not pay full attention to food safety and will do our best to manage food safely to regain trust from consumers.” The association has 100 members of large and small food businesses that produce processed food.

The industry worries that consumer distrust will not fade away easily because the recent scandals, which flared after a discovery of a suspected rat’s head, broke out in the products of major food companies with allegedly better food processing management systems.

A board director of a large food company said, “I have never imagined that big companies such as Nongshim or Dongwon F&B would make such a mistake. Excessive confidence of one’s own brand or products caused consumer distrust as a trade-off.”

Goh Yeong-seok, director of Boston Consulting Group, said, “The accidents showed the importance of a systematic management system. The problem cannot be solved given that the CEOs of the food companies monopolize the decision-making power in managerial procedures.”

Some industry experts say, “Except for some businesses, food industry CEOs have not been aware of the importance of marketing and public relations for risk management, which made matters worse.”

○ Consumer Complaints Likely to Rise

Since the recent discoveries, the PR staff of the food industry have checked the bulletin boards of the homepage of consumer-related organizations or civic groups every day to prevent any problem from growing bigger through the media.

Food companies that import products from factories in China, such as Nongshim, are in fear of the ramifications of the rat head scandal.

Kirin also imports products, including its famous rice cookies, after processing them in their factories in China.

Lee Yong-soo, president of Kirin, recently visited factories in Busan and Suwon to check on employees, including their clothing. He made sure that even dirt should not be on their clothing.

The number of complaints about foreign substance has soared over the past week. An employee of Daesang Food Co., Ltd. said, “We had to increase the number of employees who deal with consumer complaints and work late at night and even on weekends.”

Amid the exploding number of complaints about foreign substance, the number of “black consumers,” who demand excessive compensation and file complaints frequently, is expected to be on the rise.

An employee of Maeil Dairies Co., Ltd. said, “After the incidents, more bad consumers are calling the company, demanding, for example, baby formula for a lifetime or a written oath guaranteeing lifetime healthcare, in return for not reporting (foreign substance in products) to the media."

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