Unfortunately, what happened to Peter Pan is now happening to the entire peanut butter industry because of one producer, Peanut Corporation of America, which makes peanut butter paste used by a wide assortment of manufacturers in everything from candy bars to milk shakes. Though the Peter Pan recall was limited to specific lots, all Peter Pan jars were off the grocer’s shelves in a matter of days. The demands on the executive mind were too great to search out a lot number. Now that challenge is being generalized across the entire peanut butter product line. As the FDA continues to expand the list of products that might be tainted, the shopping heuristic for millions is quickly becoming, “Avoid anything with peanut butter in it.” Ironically, Peter Pan is actually able to benefit from the latest recall disruption because it implemented stringent practices to prevent the introduction of Salmonella in all of its plants and buys nothing from Peanut Corporation of America.
Archive for January, 2009
In February of 2007, Peter Pan was forced to issue a recall for certain jars of its peanut butter (those with a lot number beginning with 2111) due to Salmonella contamination. The next day as I walked through the grocery store, all Peter Pan jars were noticeably absent from my grocer’s shelves. The damage done in this kind of recall is two-fold. The first impact is that the recall disrupts habitual behavior. The automatic purchase behavior of every Peter Pan customer was disrupted because they literally could not buy the product for an extended period of time. For most, peanut butter is a staple; they could not wait the months that it took for their favorite brand to reappear. A new brand of peanut butter shows up on the cupboard; the kids protest, but having no other choice, eat the replacement. If they eat it enough times, there is a good chance they will develop, if not a preference, at least an acceptance of the other brand.
The second impact is a loss of trust for the brand. Automatic repurchase behavior allows the executive mind to relegate a decision to the habit-based mind. This process can only occur if the brand is trusted. Lose the trust; lose the habit, possibly forever.
Peter Pan was wounded, but its parent, ConAgra, had the money and wherewithal to keep the brand alive.