jonnynexus (jonnynexus) wrote,
  • Mood: pissed off

From Heroes To Zeros - For Me At Least

For the past three or four years, Sainsburys have labelled their own brand products as "Suitable for Vegetarian/Vegan" (or sometimes just "Vegetarian/Vegan") where they are suitable for vegans.

As a result, Sainsburys has been like Disneyland for vegans. We've been like kids let loose in a sweet shop. Gravy (which we put in soups, stews and everything!), ice lollies, chocolate sauces, apple strudels, biscuits - all the things that we can't usually eat because they contain unspecified "flavourings" just waiting for us to grab them, take them home, and eat them.

It didn't matter to me that Sainsburys costs more than Tescos. It didn't matter that my nearest store was much further away than my *three* local Tescos superstores. It didn't matter that it had limited opening hours (compared to their 24 hour opening).

Sainsburys like vegans, and I liked them. For three, maybe four years, I've spent about £50 a week on food from Sainsburys. I've told everyone about them. I've recommended them. I've wielded my Nectar card with pride. I was a Sainsburys man. They'd totally transformed my shopping experience; it's difficult to describe how grateful I was.

So how to Sainsburys react to being the number one choice of the supermarket (with the possible exception of those lucky enough to live near a Coop, who also label vegan stuff) for the UK's 250,000 vegans?

By shafting us, of course!

Just read a thread which started with the following post:
I'm getting so confused.
After enjoying shopping 100 times more in Sainsburys thanks to their vegan labelling, I am getting really worried that they're changing to just vegetarian labelling??

They have changed their design, but the things that are vegan seem to be mostly the old design, saying its vegan. But now and again I find things that I am certain are vegan but which are only labelled vegetarian i.e. crispy seaweed an popcorn...

I'm going to be so angry if they stop labelling things vegan, the nearest co op is over an hour drive away, or it will take me about a thousand years to shop!
A long way further into a rather "animated" thread, I then found a post containing the following gem, quoting from an email sent to the posted by the Sainsburys customer care people.
We have also decided to stop printing the vegan sign on our products, as we do not feel it is vital information. We believe this, as it is a personal choice to follow a vegan diet and is not as important as allergy advice.

If you would like to know if any of our products are suitable for vegans, please feel free to contact us. Alternatively, you could call our freephone customer Careline with your request on 0800 636 262. Our Careline is open Monday to Saturday, 8am until 7pm.

Thank you once again for taking the time to contact us and for giving us the chance to explain our position on this matter. I do hope that you will continue to enjoy our products in the future and will find everything to your satisfaction.
As an aside, I love the "we've decided to stop telling you whether or not you can eat our food but nonetheless hope that you'll continue purchasing food from us" bit!

Not surprisingly, people - including me - are a bit upset by this. I contacted Sainsburys and found, after some delay for consultation, that it was all true.

The girl explained to me that they decided to take the " and Vegans" off in order so that they can display information on allergies.

I'm tempted to point out that taking "Vegetarians and " off would actually save more space (or better still, just say "Vegan") but it's clearly a bullshit argument by them anyway. (And isn't Vegetarianism a lifestyle choice?)

Anyhow, I did then make four basic points:

1) Marking a product as suitable for vegans and giving allergy information aren't mutally exclusive (i.e. you don't have to drop one to show the other).

2) My veganism being a "lifestyle choice" doesn't make my money any less valid. If their products aren't marked as suitable for vegans, then I may as well go to Tescos which is: a) cheaper; b) nearer; and c) open better hours. And the other 249,999 vegans will no doubt do the same.

3) If a follower of Judaism asked if a product contained pork fat, would they refuse to answer on the grounds that Judaism is a "lifestyle choice"?

4) This is a stunningly stupid PR move, in that it not only negates the goodwill they've generated over the last three or four years, it actually converts it into negative feelings as we're now going to dislike Sainsburys a hell of a lot more than if they'd never done it in the first place. (i.e. If you befriend someone and then dump them, they're going to dislike you a lot more than if you'd just never befriended them in the first place).

Personally, I think there's a much more logical information than "saving space on the packaging". It's that if you put "suitable for [vegetarians and] vegans" on a packet of bourbon biscuits (as Sainsburys currently do) many non-vegans will not buy it because they think it's some kind of special version without the "creamy/milky stuff" they expect chocolate biscuits to have.

By leaving the recipe for the bourbons the same, but remarketing them as being for vegetarians only, Sainsburys may well increase their sales.

Of course, I won't be one of them. And I won't be buying their potatoes, carrots, onions, toasters, etc. etc. etc. Because I'll be at Tescos.

Or maybe I'm overthinking this. Perhaps it's just a new marketting person stripping away what they feel is extranious information.

Either way, it's one hell of a pisser. All I can do is urge any vegans reading this to call the number and complain. (Hell, if any non-vegans want to call up, please feel free). Perhaps if they realise how many of us there are, they might decide that they're going to lose more custom (and certainly goodwill) than they're going to gain.
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