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

  1. How sad!  Anyone who makes a product for public consumption should be prepared to accept that not everyone will like their product.  And I agree with you, Cybele, that 6 out of 10 is a decent score!  I WOULD eat a candy that received a 6 on your website, and I considered looking for the GoMaxGo! Buccaneer or Mahalo on my next trip to Whole Foods.  If it weren’t for your reviews, I would never have known about the products.

    But I most definitely will not try it now. Someone (Susan) needs a nap!

    Comment by Michelle F on 3/03/10 at 5:09 pm


  2. TO: @candyblog

    This is your Dad and I’m proud of you.

    I also know that your Mom is proud of you.

    Comment by A. J. May on 3/04/10 at 11:33 am


  3. I almost picked up one of these at Whole Foods the other day after reading your review, but decided to wait for next time since I already had another candy picked out. Glad I waited, I will not be purchasing anything from Go Max Go ever. This is just sad and unprofessional.

    Comment by Kristin on 3/12/10 at 2:44 pm


  4. I’ve had a few people come at me like that for stuff I’ve written in my posts. I call them “kitten drowners”—people that try to make a point by doing or saying something despicable, and that in the end, whose tactics makes absolutely no sense.

    Interesting stuff!

    Comment by Gnightgirl on 3/17/10 at 10:46 am


  5. Fascinating. Cybele, you handled yourself very well with this issue and helped candyblog maintain a good a reputable name. I certainly cannot say the same for GoMaxGo…

    Products should speak for themselves…

    Comment by Marissa on 4/10/10 at 9:07 am


  6. I was just reading Candy Blog tonight and thinking how much I love that you always make clear if something is veg/vegan friendly. Thank goodness you don’t make special exceptions to your standards for those that ARE vegan. I firmly believe vegan candy can be as good as any non-vegan ones, and we shouldn’t settle for less!

    I’m mostly vegan, myself, aside from occasional candy-related lapses. I realized a long time ago that hard-cord adherence is a recipe for bitterness, at least for me. And I’m pretty sure the candy industry is not driving corporate agribusiness.

    I enjoy your reviews of non-vegan, non-vegetarian candies, too. I can’t bring myself to eat gelatin, but I get to enjoy those candies vicariously through your very clear descriptions.

    Thanks for doing what you do. Boo for judgmental vegan mockolate makers. I’m sure neither their candy nor their attitude is making any converts.

    Comment by Rosie on 5/11/10 at 6:40 pm


  7. good for you!  i hope that this “susan” learns a valuable business lesson here!  not only is it important to mean what you say, but to not throw a childish tissy fit and lash out even at public comment posters.  i seriously hope that this woman finds a therapist to wrangle that distasteful temper.

    and for the record, it always confused me that fake animal products don’t offend vegetarians and vegans.  i was raised that if you believe in something, you should avoid even the appearance of it.  i have been to several vegan food chains where menu item contains faux meat, so i refuse to dine there.  the best way to be healthy and natural is to process, manipulate and create a facade, apparently.

    Comment by christa on 8/12/10 at 4:28 am


  8. oops, i meant that some vegan food chains have menus where ALL of the items contain faux meat.  i dont eat at those places because fake meat weirds me out.

    Comment by christa on 8/12/10 at 4:30 am


  9. I’m certainly not vegan, but I wont EVER try this company’s products, just because of their smarmy not nice attitude.  That is certainly not how I would market my business. 

    Not going to encourage people to believe in what they believe by being jack-asses, and I’ll continue to eat meat as I please.

    Comment by Robin Paddock on 5/12/11 at 8:40 am


  10. Cybele,

    This was some post, had to skip parts as I don’t want to waste time reading about some sad internet back and forth. Their side used bad judgement and you have far too much time on your hands. Result= you both lose.

    Comment by Jack Johanson on 10/17/12 at 7:56 pm


  11. Meaghan is not the only person to have an anaphaxic reaction to the diary in GO MAX GO candy bars.  My 6-year old son has, too.  Obviously, this company is unethical, irresponsible, and dangerous.  Oh, and now I can add rude and unprofessional to the list as well.  Anyone who is vegan and wants to eliminate dairy from their diet should NOT eat candy bars from GO MAX GO FOODS LLC.  Anyone who has severe allergies to dairy may not SURVIVE eating one of these candy bars.  I hope the owners of GO MAX GO really understand this.  How ironic is it that people who claim to care so much about the well being and proper treatment of animals have such little regard for HUMAN life?!?!?!

    Comment by Nicola on 2/13/13 at 10:30 pm


  12. A parent (friend of friend) sent this company an email re: inaccurate labeling on their products that put their child with food allergies in danger. This is a response. All I have to say is “Wow”. Oh, and let’s give them an earful, shall we? (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address))

    From Susan at Go Max Go Foods LLC: “I have to question you as to why you would give a child with life threatening allergies a product that is not allergen free. There are a ton of candy options that are made on dedicated equipment…spe cifically for people with allergies. We can only put our allergen warning on the label…we can’t force people to excercise good judgement regarding buying products that are not suitable for themselves or their children.

    For your information, we have already decided to remove dairy free from our label as we can use that space for other information. Since we did not develop our product for people with allergies and that is not the demographic we seek out or cater to, we feel having vegan on the label is sufficent. Our labeling is not irresponsible unethical or dangerous…peope making bad decisions are unethical, irresponsible and dangerous.

    Hopefully you will heed allergen warnings in the future. They are there for a reason and it’s your responsibility to look after your son’s health.

    Comment by Jaime Jenett on 2/14/13 at 2:46 pm


  13. I’m way late on this boat… but I was very entertained by this. I’ve been vegan for a decade, and these chocolate bars just aren’t great. They’re ok, but way too sweet, and the chocolate is meh. I don’t understand using ricemilk chocolate as a sweet coating vs. something like a 55% sweetened real dark chocolate (Chocolove makes a great 55%), which is light enough to eliminate a lot of the bitter chocolate notes. Most ricemilk chocolate I’ve eaten has a weird mouthfeel and a strange aftertaste. It makes me sad to see vegan companies flipping out like this, making vegans look crazy and extremist rather than taking constructive criticism and making a better product! Thanks for reviewing vegan things! I like reading about things I can eat smile

    Comment by Megan on 7/05/13 at 6:33 pm


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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.