Findus turns to Burson for UK crisis work

Findus UK is understood to have called in Burson-Marsteller in addition to current agency partner College Hill as it deals with a product recall that has been picked up by the media.

Findus UK is understood to have called in Burson-Marsteller in addition to current agency partner College Hill as it deals with a product recall that has been picked up by the media.

The BBC and The Sun have reported that Findus has recalled its Findus Beef Lasagne, sold in sizes of 320g, 360g, and 500g.

The story was amplified by Tesco withdrawing its own Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese from sale after receiving an alert from the supplier that sells to Findus.

It comes in the wake of traces of horsemeat being discovered in hamburgers in the UK last month, which led to retailers including Tesco and Burger King clearing products from their shelves.

College Hill has worked on financial PR for Findus Group for about two years.

“We have brought in our corporate and crisis people led by Chris Woodcock to help Findus with this situation,” said Matthew Smallwood, managing partner at College Hill.

Findus UK is part of Findus Group, which has wider operations across Europe and went through a debt restructuring last year. The group was acquired by private equity company Lion Capital in 2008.

It is not clear whether Findus UK has an in-house communications specialist.

One source who worked within the group's communications operations in recent years told PRWeek the company's entire senior communications team had left by early 2011 when costs were being cut.

Findus has had some success in getting its message across to the media. According to the BBC news website, Findus said the product was sourced externally rather than manufactured internally.

The BBC story included a Findus statement, saying: “We would like to reassure everybody that this is not a food-safety issue. The supplier that produces Findus Beef Lasagna has informed us that they have a labeling issue and have asked us to withdraw the affected product. We are working closely with retailers and the UK Food Standards Agency and trading standards authorities. We are also currently conducting a full reassessment of our supplier's sourcing.”

However, at the time of publication, the Findus.co.uk website does not feature the statement.

Tesco drafted the following statement yesterday in response to media calls: “Following the withdrawal of Findus Beef Lasagne, which is produced by Comigel, we have decided to withdraw our frozen Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese, which is produced at the same site, as a precautionary measure. There is no evidence that our product has been contaminated and the meat used in the Findus product is not used in our product. However, we have decided to withdraw the product pending the results of our own tests.”

Findus' troubles come as rival Birds Eye is going through the process of picking a PR agency, which it wants to help “change perceptions about the frozen food sector.”

Birds Eye is seeking to consolidate its UK consumer, b-to-b, and social media work. Apart from Freud, which will be considered for the brief despite not formally pitching, Birds Eye's other UK incumbents are Mercieca for b-to-b and Glue Isobar for social media.

A Burson representative was unavailable for comment.

This story originally appeared on the website of PRWeek UK, the sister publication of PRWeek at Haymarket Media.

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