People love talking about, tweeting, instagramming and pinning food. In fact, when this post was written, there were 176,340,729 posts on Instagram tagged with #food – and that number will grow in a matter of minutes.

As an instantaneous wealth of insight, social media provides food & beverage companies with the perfect opportunity to hear conversations and opinions that shed light on consumers’ shifting tastes and preferences. If consumers are talking about your product or brand, the last thing you want to do is leave them hanging. Proactively listening, understanding, and responding to consumers’ feedback and thoughts is social media 101. Unsurprisingly, brands that are active and conversational on social media see the greatest engagement.

The real challenge lies when things don’t go as planned, better known as the dreaded crisis. From snowballing negative comments to full-blown protests, the course of a crisis and its impact is directly correlated with how brands respond to the social unrest.

Here are 4 takeaways from how food & beverage brands faced and overcame social turmoil:

  • KNOW WHEN TO APOLOGIZE. Whole Foods is a great example of a brand that knows when to say it’s sorry. A customer tweeted a picture of pre-peeled and re-packaged oranges with the caption “If only nature would find a way to cover these oranges so we didn’t need to waste so much plastic on them.” Shortly after, Whole Foods apologized and pulled the product from shelves. Their swift apologetic response would make any crisis plan proud.

Nathalie Gordon


  • OR DON’T APOLOGIZE? Taking the road less traveled, Protein World, a UK supplement company, decided to ride the coattails of a crisis after their “beach ready” campaign received major backlash – think spray-painted profanity and body-painted protesters. On social media, Protein World stood their ground, which led some marketers to commend the brand’s particular character and meaning as a valuable commodity instead of trying to be all things to all persons.  In the end, the ad was banned but the brand saw a boost in sales, brand awareness and loyalty.


  • SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED A LAUGH. Jealous or genius, Heineken leveraged the Protein World controversy positioning its brand right in the center of the dialogue. Their marketing nimbleness allowed them to take action quickly when conversations were at their peak. The best part? They scored an ad placement right next to the contentious Protein World ad showing the clear and humorous comparison.

Get Your Beer Belly Out

  • IF HATERS HATE THE GAME, PLAY THE HATERS. Honey Maid received negative feedback when they first launched their “This is Wholesome” campaign featuring interracial families. The brand’s response only strengthened their original messaging: acceptance. They developed another video, shown below, turning the haters into players in another opportunity to feature their brand and messaging. Flash forward three years, the campaign still goes strong following its unique launch and Honey Maid continues to push the envelope and encourage acceptance.

If and when food hits the fan, remember these 4 takeaways for how to harness the turmoil and ride out your social media crisis with an unscathed brand. But if you’re still wondering whether your brand is prepared to manage a crisis situation, our 5-minute Crisis IQ Test can answer that question for you!