Sunday, February 28, 2010

Go Max Go! Use Twitter to Ruin Your Brand Equity!

The week of February 15th, I reviewed a set of four candy bars on Candy Blog from the company called Go Max Go Foods: Mahalo, Buccaneer, Twilight & Jokerz. They’re vegan versions of popular candy bars - no dairy, no hydrogenated oils, no animal products and all natural. I bought them at Whole Foods back in January and took photos of them and posted them within the review. (I also reviewed two other vegan candy bars - one before and one after that set - it was an unofficial vegan week.)

Some I liked and some I didn’t. I took issue with the use of palm oil instead of real cocoa butter, the fact that they were three times the price of a regular candy bar, and the taste profile was overall too sweet. The review results ranged from 4 out of 10 to 6 out of 10.

I reviewed them at the request of a reader. I like to make sure I have something to offer all my readers - especially those with special dietary restrictions. The posts didn’t get much traffic or comments, no biggie.

On Friday, February 26th. someone identified as “susan” left a comment on the review of the Jokerz Bar (a vegan version of a Snickers):

success! thousands of VEGANS and NON VEGANS love the bars…your attachment to all things murder (fur, meat, milk) renders your opinion of any vegan product as useless.  i think our vegan community will agree with me when i say “you suck”.

Comment by susan on 2/26/10 at 12:38 pm

The email address associated with the comment (visible only to me as the blog owner) was from the domain of the candy maker itself. My commenting policy clearly states that sock puppets are not tolerated and will be outed. As I was responding to that comment, susan left similar comments on all the reviews.

how cool! a carnivore who hates everything vegan reviewing our bars. so glad you find them distasteful…we’ll chalk that up to a win. by the by, dark chocolate makes us yawn which is why we went with rice (not mucus milk) chocolate.

Comment by susan on 2/26/10 at 12:55 pm

(link to Buccaneer review.)

how long did it take you to let the candy bars melt, get mashed and mangled, before taking the pix?  by the way…..dark chocolate is as boring as your blog.

Comment by susan on 2/26/10 at 1:16 pm

(link to Twilight review.)

wow! you got both your friends to write comments on your blog. congrats! if you were vegan (or intelligent) you might count, but….meh.

Comment by susan on 2/26/10 at 1:04 pm

(Link to Mahalo review.)

I didn’t want to assume that it was a sock puppet, since a commenter can leave any address, there’s no verification process. First, I tried to respond to the email address to verify that she was a representative of the company - what I learned while waiting for a response was that she had also twittered from the official account of the company:

GoMaxGoFoods: @candyblog your reviews are laughable. you hate all things ‘fake’ like mock meat,fur,etc…so does ur review of r bars count? nah. #vegan (permalink)

I considered that verification that this was a true representative and published my response calling her out in my comments area of the site. I responded there with a Tweet to my followers pointing to her Tweet to me:

candyblog: Oh dear, I’ve upset a candy maker. (permalink)

Within that time she posted two more times on Twitter, this time not replies but original tweets with links to my reviews:

GoMaxGoFoods: go max go haters! read this & have ur say (p.s. they ain’t vegan) #vegan #dairy free (permalink)

GoMaxGoFoods: anti vegan “wheys” in on go max go: #vegan #vegetarian #dairy free (permalink)

It’s not the first time I’ve had a sock puppet on the blog. Heck, it’s not even the 10th time. I’ve had candy makers themselves comment on my posts as well - on both the raves and the pans. (I don’t consider giving a candy a 6 out of 10 a pan, I consider it a good candy, just not one I personally plan to keep buying but likely to be someone’s favorite.) But this was definitely a first for me where the company tried to rally support for the their product after a perceived bad review. (Candy Blog has been around longer than Twitter or the use of Facebook by companies.) The comments that followed, some apparently arriving via her tweet link, were clear, cogent and both positive about the product itself and negative. Some were from regular readers of my blog, some were not people who had commented before.

As if the comments and the initial posts on Twitter weren’t bad enough, the train wreck continued as she engaged the Candy Blog followers. 

You can reread the whole thing here as a screengrab of the Twitter conversations.

My followers started checking out what @GoMaxGoFoods was saying and replied. @GoMaxGoFoods started replying to them, often insulting them and ranting about how someone who doesn’t like fake fur or fake meat shouldn’t be reviewing vegan candy.

Choice comments:

the_real_k10: @candyblog….sounds like they are a little bitter party of one..

GoMaxGoFoods: @the_real_k10 bitter? hardly. there are thousands of people enjoying a dairyfree, cruelty free product that we created. what have u done?

the_real_k10:  @GoMaxGoFoods…FYI I work with children with Autism everyday so don’t try to get on a pedestal about making candy….

And this one:

phearlez: Wow, does abuse and insult really make people want to do business with @gomaxgofoods? Hard to understand running a business that way.

phearlez: @GoMaxGoFoods resisting the urge to use the word “idiot” is dumbing down 4 dollars? Your mom must be so proud of how polite you turned out

Go Max Go Foods:@phearlez why don’t you take that pot off your head and air out your brain. yes, my mom loves me! sounds like u have some mommy issues tho

And the last one of note:

edenza: @candyblog If it looks bad, tastes bad, has bad packaging… how dare you say it’s bad! ; ) It’s fake chocolate by definition. What dorks.

GoMaxGoFoods: @edenza with an avatar like that you have the nerve to call anyone a dork?

The strange part is that @GoMaxGoFoods had some interesting points hidden in those tweets and the comments.

I took issue with the use of mockolate (replacing cocoa butter with palm oil) for two reasons. One, mockolate doesn’t taste good. Two, palm oil isn’t forest-friendly - which is apparently something important to people who are vegans because they don’t believe in harming animals. (I don’t know how the health vegans feel.) Eventually she said that they used sustainably grown palm oil and that real chocolate made with rice milk was not stable enough to be used to cover candy bars. (I pointed out that if its sustainable palm oil, that should be noted on the website at the very least. She agreed.)

I did a little more reading on the company, most of what I found out that wasn’t quotes from their official website on blogs or webstores was from this article from the Daily Vanguard from November 2009. The founders of the company are noted as Scott Ostrander and Susan Francovig. The article says:

“People have the wrong idea of vegan food, those who haven’t explored it,” Francovig said. “We wanted to show people that we are multilayered just like everyone else. We wanted the bars to have a retro and fun look to attract the nonvegan consumer.”

I guess she changed her mind about the nonvegans.

The stupid part was how fixated she was on my statement that I didn’t like faux fur or fake meat. I can only assume that she thought that meant that actually liked the real thing - which is quite clear to regular readers. I haven’t eaten red meat in 23 years. (No I am not currently a vegan, mostly because I like gummi bears and real cream caramels too much).

For the record, I’ve reviewed hundreds of candies that are considered vegan. I don’t treat them any different because they have special rules.

UPDATE 11/30/2012: Go Max Go is currently under recall in Canada due to some labeling issues. They use shared equipment with dairy products, yet advertise their products as dairy free. (More from Vancouver’s The Go Max Go Twitter feed is again saying abusive things, this time to a customer (Meagan H) who said she had a reaction.


UPDATE 4/24/2013: The FDA announced a voluntary recall by Go Max Go for labeling issues.

April 22, 2013 — Go Max Go Foods LLC, announces that it has taken the precautionary measure of voluntarily withdrawing a limited quantity of vegan candy bar products. These products contain the following statement on the front label: “dairy-free”, which may lead to confusion for people who have allergies to milk products. People who have severe sensitivity or allergies to milk may run the risk of a serious or lifethreatening allergic reaction if they consume these products.

Bars include: Snap!, Cleo’s, Jokerz, Twilight, Buccaneer, Mahalo and Thumbs Up.

The issue comes down to the front of package saying that the products are dairy free, but the actual products are made on shared equipment with dairy products, so it is possible they could contain traces of dairy. That is labeled on the back of the package underneath the ingredients list, at least the ones that I’ve seen.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 12:00 pm     Curious News

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Candy as Currency

I’ve been cruising around old issues of Life Magazine in search of confectionery-themed morsels that might give me a glimpse into how candy was regarded in our culture in the past. I found this one and thought I’d share it.

The Licorice Lira Problem by Dora Jane Hamblin from LIFE magazine November 26, 1971

At the heart of the matter is an acute shortage of the small five- and ten-lira coins needed to make change. It is not a big deal: the five-lira piece is worth about one-third of a U.S. cent, the ten-lira piece about two-thirds. But shopkeepers never seem to have any, and they have evolved a system of handing out candy in lieu of small coins. (The post office has its own system, doling out utterly useless but quite beautiful stamps for change.) A square of hard licorice, hygienically wrapped in its own bit of paper, serves for five lire in most stores, and a creamy caramel or a piece of what tastes and crunches like sweetened limestone does for the ten-lira piece. Really grand stores have big glass bowls of assorted candies, marked clearly with the price per piece, and the customer can take his choice.

Read the whole piece here

POSTED BY Cybele AT 1:22 pm     Curious News

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Ranking of Nuts by Preference

Here are the nuts I prefer, based on eating them whole or in other foods. (Nut butters are a whole other thing.) I’ve included seeds and legumes as well.
Robitaille's Dark Chocolate Turtle
1. Pecans
2. Cashews
3. Hazelnuts
4. Almonds
5. Pistachio
6. Pine Nuts
7. Peanuts
8. Pepitas or Pumpkin Seeds
8. Sesame Seeds
8. Macadamia Nuts
9. Brazil Nuts

(I’m allergic to Walnuts.)

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:38 am     Curious News













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During November it's all about me writing a novel. Sometimes it's about whalewatching. You know, and then there's other stuff.