Tesco got a taste of the British public’s aversion to nannying this week, in the form of a noisy backlash against the retailer’s supposed ‘ban’ on Ribena.
Never mind that Tesco isn’t actually banning Ribena (or any other brand). As revealed by The Grocer last week, it is removing added-sugar juice drinks targeted at kids. That means some lunchbox cartons will be going, not a blanket ban on certain brands.
But such detail quickly got lost in the social media storm, where Tesco’s pioneering move - timed to coincide with Back to School week and lauded widely by public health campaigners - was portrayed as a witch-hunt against childhood favourites.
Tesco sources admit to being stunned by the reaction, which shows just how hard it is to control consumer messages once a story goes viral.
But the events of the past week raise wider questions. When supermarkets come in for a bashing from the health lobby, or government calls for changes to pricing and promotions, public support is taken for granted. The Ribena reaction proves consumer attitudes towards ‘choice editing’ are more complex than often thought.