Aug 10 2011
Today, the Houston Press reported that Whole Foods was backing away from a marketing campaign it had launched to promote Halal products for Ramadan, which started on August 1.
ORIGINAL POST AT BNI: whole-foods-goes-halal-launches-campaign-to-celebrate-ramadan
Congames – According to an internal letter intercepted by Eating Our Words blogger Katharine Shilcutt, the company instructed its workers: “It is probably best that we don’t specifically call out or ‘promote’ Ramadan.” The letter went on, “we should not highlight Ramadan in signage in our stores as that could be considered ‘Celebrating or promoting’ Ramadan.”
The story didn’t stop there, though. Since it came out in the Houston Press this morning, it’s been picked up by Gawker, whose headline said the chain “caved to wingnuts” and the Huffington Post, which said the retailer had “Abandon[ed]” the “Ramadan Marketing Campaign.” The Washington Post was a little more measured: “Whole Foods under fire for internal email about halal promotion at Ramadan.”
Before we go any further, a bit of background on the marketing campaign itself: Whole Foods got a little attention in late July when it launched a Ramadan-oriented marketing campaign. The low-key marketing effort basically consisted of introducing a line of products from Saffron Road, the maker of Halal frozen foods, and featuring them in couple of company blog posts. Its website also ran content from Yvonne Maffei, of My Halal Kitchen. Fast Company’s Neal Ungerleider reported on July 28, “While it is a relatively small promotion, it also marks a new benchmark for the Muslim-American community: the first coordinated Ramadan promotion by a national supermarket chain.”
The campaign was met with polite interest from business journals and Muslim groups, and, in one case, a vitriolic screed that apparently “spooked” (in Burkhart’s words) one region into trying to abandon it altogether. That blog post came from Debbie Schlussel. On July 29, Schlussel posted an item blasting the “anti-Israel” Whole Foods’ decision to launch a Ramadan-based promotion. “The question is, how long ’til Whole Foods no longer carries pork and other non-halal products? Answer: Not long,” she wrote. She also attacked this Whole Foods company blog post on the promotion as “Islamo-pandering,” and finished with this:
Here’s a tip, Whole Foods: there is NOTHING “cosmopolitan” about Islam. In fact, Islam is the antonym to cosmopolitan. Retro is in. Retro back to the year 622 and the values of savages will NEVER be in.Whole Foods . . . For the Organically Conscious Jihadist. Way more humane because, hey, “free range chickens” can run away from the IED. allahu natural fruitbar.
But Schlussel’s post responded directly to a Whole Foods blog post, and that’s what the Houston Press’s letter focused on: “Some people have misinterpreted the blog post to mean we are celebrating or promoting Ramadan in our stores,” the letter read. The misinterpretation has generated some negative feedback from a small segment of vocal and angry consumers and bloggers.”
Burkhart said it was input from shoppers that made regional management send out that unfortunate email. “A lot of the response too was also from our shoppers. Unfortunately I think it can be easy to be alarmed by a blog post or something like that that makes you really start to question the offerings, and so we were getting a lot of questions from shoppers, and I think in the process of answering some of those questions, an email was probably sent out just to try to avoid some of those questions going forward.”