Client: Nestle, Mars, Heinz and Unilever
PR Team: GPlus Europe
Campaign: 'Let us eat lumpy sauces'
Timescale: Mid-December 2001- ongoing
An arcane piece of EU legislation would have us believe that what most
would consider a sauce is actually a vegetable. For years, the sauce
industry has been attempting to expose an EU rule declaring that 'a
preparation of vegetables, fruit or other edible plants' cannot be
called a sauce if more than 20 per cent comprises lumps.
The EU's Customs Committee distinguishes between the two by passing the
'sauce' through a sieve, rinsing the remaining lumps in heated water,
then measuring the percentage of the product that has passed
Tariffs of up to 288 per cent are imposed on 'lumpy sauces', whereas
those with less than 20 per cent 'lumps' receive 20 per cent
The World Customs Organisation previously ruled that the lump system was
discriminatory and should be dropped. But sanctions cannot be imposed on
To postpone the Customs Committee's decision (10 January) to introduce a
final (unsatisfactory) offer to raise the lump threshold to 30 per cent,
allowing the food industry to voice its opinions. The delay would allow
the parties time to engage in talks.
Strategy and Plan
GPlus believed the issue needed a publicity boost. However, it wanted
the media to avoid covering the story as a further example of
The story was broken to The Economist, which was likely to add gravitas.
The article was published on 4 January and was circulated to key players
in the Commission, and elsewhere. The US Government was also
Officials increasingly became aware of the issue. GPlus associate
Philippe Lemaitre briefed the director-general for customs and the
agency maintained its dialogue with him, arguing the case for delaying
the Committee's decision.
Two days before the meeting, the story was fed to the Press Association.
It ran at 4.30am on 8 January and was picked up by UK and international
The British Foreign Office briefed journalists about developments and
government officials in key member states were also briefed prior to the
Measurement and Evaluation
Media coverage was extensive. The UK press embraced the story as
illustrative of the EU's obsession with fatuous legislation. The
ludicrous nature of applying arbitrary bureaucratic standards to the
definition of a 'sauce' was highlighted.
On the day of the meeting the Commission fought back on the basis of a
minor error in a Times editorial. The EU's counter-statement was
dismissed as erroneous.
The decision to introduce a final offer on 10 January was postponed. The
media latched onto the story as another example of EU meddling. Despite
the media's pun-rich treatment, the issue avoided trivialisation.
GPlus is maintaining its campaign until the Committee reconvenes in