Tesco announced that it will remove added sugar Ribena cartons from its shelves in a bid to combat childhood obesity yesterday and caused a media storm in the process. Good PR or bad decision making?
The reasoning behind the retailer’s decision is admirable: a bid to reduce childhood obesity, and follows from the removal of confectionery products at the till. The move has the potential to push brands to invest in new product development and research to find alternative products that meet taste and quality standards but are also better for us, especially if other retailers follow suit.
At the heart of the ranging decision was a good PR story.
Tesco were ridiculed for their decision to remove Ribena but not Coke or Haribo. In principle a stand against childhood obesity would sit well with Tesco which is well matched with families, but because it is limited to just Ribena cartons and Capri-sun pouches, the message is completely lost. If you are going to take a stand then do just that. Don’t offer a half-hearted nod to the problem.
Many parents were incensed by the idea that they were not able to say no to their children and that Tesco should make that decision for them. Other parents of children with diabetes also complained explaining that a high sugar carton of juice is exactly what is needed to prevent a child lapsing into a diabetic coma when they are unable to chew.
The knock on effect of #Ribenagate is that Tesco look foolish, they alienate parents and customers shop elsewhere. It must always be a considered decision to delist a product taking into account reduced choice, price gaps in the range, space, popularity and of course negative PR. The supplier may also be supplying other products and delisting one could have a price or listing impact on others.
The fallout from this has been such that we would expect Tesco to relist the SKUs shortly and let the whole thing blow over. Another stand against obesity can be made if other retailers are likely to follow, if alternative products have been developed that can meet customer’s taste expectations, and if Tesco don’t move faster than the customer is prepared to.
Being cynical, Capri-Sun was also de-listed but there was less of an outcry over that. Perhaps this was a ploy by Tesco to see which brand is least popular?