M&S Faces Public Backlash Over Cauliflower Steaks

Marks and Spencer recently faced public backlash for selling cauliflower slices in plastic boxes marketed as “cauliflower steaks” for £2. Consumers raised concerns over excess packaging and overpricing, pointing out that a whole cauliflower could be purchased in M&S for £1, offering far better value for money whilst being better for the environment. In response, a Marks and Spencer spokeswoman said that these were part of a new “quick and convenient” vegetarian range, and that the the recyclable plastic tray packaging was necessary to protect the product. However, as a result of the criticism, M&S have decided to stop selling the “steaks”. The issue of over packaging fruit & vegetables has hit the spotlight before, with Wholefoods being one of the first offenders when in 2016 they were widely ridiculed for selling single peeled oranges in plastic boxes – however, for a supermarket that has also sold “asparagus water” in the past (literally just 3 stalks of asparagus in a plastic water bottle for $5.99), this is not entirely out of character.


M&S are not the only company to have recently faced mockery for misunderstanding consumer needs. Last month, Doritos announced plans to manufacture crisps especially for women, with Indra Nooyi (global chief exec at PepsiCo, Doritos’ parent company) saying that these were needed as women “don’t like to crunch too loudly in public” and “don’t lick their fingers generously [like the guys do],” and would therefore benefit from a “lady-friendly” version that will be smaller in size, with the packet being specifically designed to fit inside a handbag. The response has been overwhelmingly negative, with many people pointing out that nobody wanted or asked for gender-specific crisps.

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A spokesperson from the Women’s Equality Party condemned the idea as simply “shrinking products for women, no doubt for the same price”, as well as warning that “companies that perpetuate these tired gender stereotypes will continue to lose out on the single biggest consumer group: women.” Neither Doritos nor PepsiCo has confirmed when or where the new crisps may launch, or if they will launch at all: a spokeswoman for PepsiCo later said that they “already have Doritos for women – they’re called Doritos”, but also that the company is “always looking for new ways to engage and delight our consumers”. Clearly, however, their strategies for delighting consumers need improvement; on Twitter, it was described as “the dumbest idea ever”, and somebody pointed out that Doritos missed an opportunity by not marketing these quieter-to-eat crisps as “Incognitos Doritos”.

Kate Mikhaylenko

Image: [Marketing Week]