Bernard Matthews is facing a greater consumer backlash over its handling of the bird flu outbreak than the outcry that followed criticism of its Turkey Twizzler products being included on schools’ menus last year.
Figures from YouGov show that confidence in the brand has plummeted even lower than when criticism of Turkey Twizzlers was at its highest.
Although the food company has already culled 160,000 turkeys after an outbreak of the HN51 strain of avian flu at its Suffolk meat plant, consumer confidence has been rocked by its delay in discovering the outbreak and alerting the authorities. Bernard Matthews is ranked as the UK’s 12th-biggest food brand, with 2006 sales worth about £300m (TNS World Panel) and supermarkets are already reporting a dip in sales.
However, branding expert Jonathan Gabay says all is not lost for the brand.
“The Bernard Matthews case is unique,” he says. “First, apart from a single swan, it is the first outbreak of avian flu in the UK. And second, the Bernard Matthews case involves unpreventable natural causes.”