Findus Italy and Findus Switzerland have launched advertising campaigns to reassure local consumers that they are not affected by the horse meat scandal involving Findus products in other countries.
The two companies have been running ads in newspapers to explain to the Italian and Swiss public that although the Findus brand is used in many European countries, it is owned by different parent companies in different territories, which have their own sourcing policies and own suppliers.
Whereas the scandal-hit British, French and Scandinavian operations are part of the Findus Group, Findus Switzerland is owned by Nestlé and Findus Italy is owned by Compagnia Surgelati Italiana (CSI), part of Iglo Group.
In ads headed “100% Swiss beef, 100% Nestlé quality”, Findus Switzerland told consumers it used only fully traceable Swiss beef in its frozen pasta dishes, and even named its meat suppliers – Bell, Micarna, Marmy and Carnoglob – to distance itself from the Findus Group divisions that were supplied by French company Comigel, which made the frozen lasagne that was found to contain horse meat.
“Findus Switzerland is part of Nestlé Group and has no connections whatsoever to Findus UK or Findus in other countries,” the ads said.
Meanwhile, an ad on the Findus Italy website and published in many Italian papers said Findus Italy products were not affected by the horse meat scandal, and spelled out the ownership structure of Findus in different countries. “There is no connection between the Findus brand marketed in Italy and the Findus brand marketed in the UK and the rest of Europe. In fact, the Findus brand is owned by different companies in different countries,” the ads said.
In Italy, Findus was owned by CSI, which was part of Iglo Foods Group and operated under the Birds Eye brand in the UK and under the Iglo brand in other European countries, the ads explained. But in the UK, France and Scandinavia, Findus was owned by the Findus Group. “And this, and only this, is the company that is recalling some of its products,” the ads added. They also said Findus Switzerland was owned by Nestlé.
“We would like to reassure our customers that only CSI can sell products under the Findus brand name in Italy; no meat or other ingredient present in our products comes from suppliers involved in other European countries; there is no connection between the [horse meat] case in question and our beef-based products.”
The complicated ownership structure behind the Findus brand is the result of its being sold off by Nestlé in 2000, after being owned by the Swiss company since the 1960s. Only Findus Switzerland is still part of Nestlé.
The Findus Group used to be fully owned by private-equity firm Lion Capital, which acquired the group from another private-equity outfit in 2008. Following a restructuring last year, Lion became a minority shareholder with a 33% stake, with the rest of the company owned by three banks.