Blog: Dean BestKettle Chips boycott call misguided

Dean Best | 9 October 2007

Social networking sites are having a growing influence on the decision-makers at the world’s consumer goods companies.

From Mars using the likes of Bebo to market its confectionery to Cadbury Schweppes bringing back Wispa chocolate after a campaign on Facebook, the power of such sites is perceived to be growing as the number of users soars.

But how accurate is that perception? Today (9 October), the UK newspaper The Guardian reported that calls to boycott upmarket crisp brand Kettle Chips have sprung up on Facebook, amid recent claims that workers in the UK are being dissuading from joining a trade union.

Two groups have been formed on the Facebook site, which are calling for users to shun the brand. The groups – “Boycott Kettle Crisps for attacks on workers” and “Boycott Kettle Chips: the anti-Trade Union snack” – slam brand-owner Kettle Foods (itself owned by private equity firm Lion Capital) for “an assault upon [the] human rights” of the company’s UK workers.

Now, the groups’ ideals are perfectly laudable. But, do the members of the groups honestly believe that calling for a boycott on Facebook will hurt Kettle Foods enough financially – or cause them enough public embarrassment – to cause the company to change its mind?

And does the wider British public value being able to join a union highly enough to stop buying the product? It’s not as if Kettle Foods is using sweat shops in the Third World.


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