Pret a Manger hires Headland and Tovera amid change programme after tragedy

Pret a Manger has appointed PR agency Headland and brand reputation specialist Tovera Consulting amid the fallout from the sandwich chain's handling of the death of a teenager who had an allergic reaction to one of its baguettes.

Pret a Manger has been communicating its new approach to labeling
Pret a Manger has been communicating its new approach to labeling

Headland’s brief includes senior communications counsel and advice, corporate PR, public affairs and press office support. Tovera will lead a programme of stakeholder research and insights.

Part of the brief will be supporting Pret as the company implements significant changes to its operations following its commitment to review its allergen policies.

In October, Pret agreed to full ingredient labelling on all of its freshly-made products more than two years after 15-year-old Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died from an allergic reaction.

PR experts contacted by PRWeek in October, when the incident came to light, labelled the response "inadequate" and "far too slow". It has also emerged that a second customer had died after eating one of its sandwiches in 2017.

Consumer 'trust' and 'joy' in Pret a Manger sharply declined after coverage of the brand's handling of the tragedy, according to data analytics firm Newton Insight.

The company’s CEO Clive Schlee recently wrote about the steps Pret is taking, including the appointment of former Food Standards Agency chief executive Tim J. Smith as chair of its new Food Advisory Panel. The company has produced a video (below) explaining its actions.

Pret has traditionally not worked with a retained consumer PR agency, although it uses Bite for content creation.

Pret chief customer officer Barnaby Dawe, who joined the firm at the height of the media backlash in October, said: "Allergens have become increasingly prominent as a growing public health issue and Pret has very much been in the spotlight. Headland and Tovera will help drive forward our commitment to be at the forefront of change in the industry and to put customers in the best possible position to make informed food and drink choices.

"Tovera will support us with strategic insight and Headland has the right combination of experience and expertise to help us build trust with all our stakeholders."

Chris Salt, CEO of Headland, said: "Pret has made a very clear commitment to make meaningful and lasting changes to better protect and inform customers with allergies. It’s a great brand and business, and we’re proud to be supporting them through such a significant transformation."

Pret was founded in London in 1986 and currently operates 440 outlets in six countries, serving 450,000 customers every day.

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