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France’s “Horsegate” Scandal: Marketing Communications Addressing the Aftermath of a Food Fraud/Product Recall

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CASE STUDY. This case describes a major food fraud scandal that resulted in a much-publicized product recall.

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France’s “Horsegate” Scandal: Marketing Communications Addressing the Aftermath of a Food Fraud/Product Recall: Abstract

France’s “Horsegate” Scandal: Marketing Communications Addressing the Aftermath of a Food Fraud/Product Recall is a case study by Normand Turgeon and Philippe Lefèvre.

This case describes a major food fraud scandal that resulted in a much-publicized product recall. The episode was dubbed “Horsegate” by the national and international press. In early 2013, a scandal broke out in Ireland and the UK when horsemeat was found in frozen prepared meals sold as containing 100% beef. Findus Nordic, the company involved in the scandal, sold the same products in France. The press launched an investigation, and there were numerous media reports. A French company, Picard Surgelés, was found to have two products tainted with horsemeat. Both companies had to recall their products. Politicians got involved and carefully followed the crisis. Organizations in the supply chain implicated in the scandal struggled to defend themselves and blamed each other. French consumers reacted, and sales of frozen meat products dropped sharply. Findus Nordic and Picard Surgelés’s brands were the most heavily impacted in France.

This case focuses on Picard Surgelés, an integrated food processor that sells its store brand (private label) products in a company-owned chain of retail stores. The company needs help, and brand managers and marketing communications specialists must assess the situation and make recommendations to address the aftermath of the food fraud/product recall.

Teaching objectives

This case gives students the opportunity to do the following:

  • Analyze the antecedents and consequences of product recalls
  • Implement a marketing communication strategy and develop a plan accordingly
  • Review the concepts of B2B and B2C and introduce the notion of B2S (business to store) and S2C (store to consumer) communication
  • Understand the importance of trust, values, and ethics in business relationships

Main themes covered

  • Food products
  • False labelling
  • Product recall
  • Marketing communication
  • Distribution
  • Supply chain
  • Consumer behaviour
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • Public relations
  • Media coverage

Concepts and theories related to the case

  • Commercial fraud
  • Consequences of product recalls
  • Consumer behaviour
  • Public relations activities
  • Marketing communication strategies

Additional information

Also available in French.

Teaching notes are available for teachers only. Contact the HEC Montréal Case Centre for more information.

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