Chocolate wars Create Rage on two Continents

2015-01-27 by Ronn Torossian

ronn torossian choclate wars

If there is anything that might get otherwise congenial people fighting, it’s probably taking their chocolate. But that’s what is happening in some markets, and it has chocoholics all but rioting in the streets. Ronn Torossian explains the conflict, and explores the PR consequences of fighting the chocolate wars.

Currently, US chocolate heavyweight Hershey is locked in a legal dispute with LBB imports, a company that imports and distributes specialty candy products from Britain, South Africa and Australia. Hershey didn’t appreciate some of the products LBB had been bringing into American markets, and, initially, the company stopped importing these selections. Cue the enraged consumers.

Simply put, the decision to kowtow to Hershey has been trouble for both LBB and Hershey. Perhaps one of the most heated and specific responses came from New York retailer Tea & Sympathy, which specializes in British Goods.

Here’s what they said, via their social media page: “Due to legal action by the so-called chocolate maker Hershey, we can no longer import the real Cadbury chocolate from England. They want us to sell their dreadful Cadbury approximation, but we can’t in good conscience sell you such awful chocolate when we have made our reputation on selling you the yummy real English stuff.”

This is a nasty PR trifecta that could melt right into a full-scale chocolate crisis. First, an established and popular retailer came out and pointed fingers of blame at a specific brand. Second, the retailer gave angry consumers a specific item to rally around. Third, the retailer took the moment to rather forcibly compare its offerings to the American versions, which it unabashedly claims are inferior.

Why is this such a compounded PR issue for Hershey? Point one is that the retailer has given frustrated chocolate lovers a villain to hate. Then it upped the ante and offered a specific brand item to promote. You can already see the crème egg hashtags coming. Finally, the retailer gave consumers an opportunity to choose sides and an invitation to do so in a very public and obvious way.

Whether or not these three outcomes were intentional for the retailer or if they were just blowing off some steam online, the effect will be the same. People now have a venue on which to rally, a rallying cry and a totem to rally around. Brands have suffered PR crises when their opponents were armed with much less.

About Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations. He is an experienced leader in the public relations industry with over 20 years of experience. Ronn Torossian has been named as Public Relations executive of the year by the American Business Awards, and has run countless award-winning Public Relations programs.

Ronn Torossian: Insights from a Native New Yorker and CEO of 5WPR

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently-owned PR firms in the United States. With over 20 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected Public Relations professionals. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth, overseeing more than 200 professionals in the company's headquarters in midtown Manhattan. With clients spanning corporate, technology, consumer and crisis, in addition to digital marketing and public affairs capabilities, 5WPR is regularly recognized as an industry leader and has been named "PR Agency of the Year" by the American Business Awards on multiple occasions. Throughout his career, Torossian has worked with some of the world's most visible companies, brands and organizations. His strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards 2020 Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, a 2020 Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, and a recipient of Crain’s New York 2021 Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications, and is called on to counsel blue chip companies, top business executives and entrepreneurs both in the United States and worldwide. Torossian has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly on CNN & CNBC, is a contributing columnist for Forbes and the New York Observer, and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. A NYC native, Torossian lives in Manhattan with his children. He is a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO), and active in numerous charities