Findus turns to Burson-Marsteller for crisis brief

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

Findus: Beef Lasagne product withdrawal
Findus: Beef Lasagne product withdrawal

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

The story has been 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 beefburgers last month, which led to retailers including Tesco, Burger King and Iceland clearing products from their shelves.

College Hill has been working on financial PR for Findus Group for around two years.

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

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 for £1.1bn in 2008.

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

One source who worked within the group’s comms operations in recent years told PRWeek the company’s entire senior comms 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 by Findus.

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 Lasagne has informed us that they have a labelling issue and have asked us to withdraw the affected product. We are working closely with retailers and the 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 website does not feature the statement.

Tesco drafted the following statement yesterday to issue 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, b2b and social media work, which is understood to be worth up to £500,000. Apart from Freuds, which will be considered for the brief despite not formally pitching, Birds Eye’s other UK incumbents are Mercieca for b2b and Glue Isobar for social media.

Burson-Marsteller was unavailable to comment.

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