ConAgra pulls a dirty frozen-meal trick on food bloggers
Hey, remember those ads where they used to secretly replace people's actual made-from-beans coffee with freeze-dried Flavor Crystals? Those were a laugh riot, right? So obviously the most genius possible marketing plan for frozen dinners — basically the food equivalent of instant coffee — would be to make people think they're eating real made-from-food food, and then alert them that they've been baited and switched. It can't fail! You know, unless the people involved are food bloggers who care about eating organic, fresh, and healthy ingredients rather than mass-fabricated sodium-enhanced spun and capped protein strands. Then they might get pissed.
But ConAgra, makers of such food-adjacent items as Chef Boyardee and Reddi-Wip, didn't see that one coming when they set up a supposed luxury dinner with a group of food bloggers and their guests. The host, chef George Duran, served — and implied he had cooked — a main course of lasagna and a dessert of, um, "razzleberry pie." Once the bloggers had gotten it down their necks, Duran told them the food was actually frozen Marie Callender dinners. Smile, you're on ConAgra Camera!
I don't know about you, but this is the only thing I can think of when I hear a food name like "razzleberry pie."
ConAgra and Duran did one and only one thing right: When one food blogger mentioned her food coloring allergy, they whipped her up a plate of real food. Their explanation, pre-reveal, was that there "might" be food coloring in the lasagna. Because that's a totally normal thing. I put food coloring in the lasagna I make at home ALL THE TIME.
But they did NOT make real food for bloggers who chatted about their commitment to organics, their strong feelings about home cooking, or their objection to the preponderance of high-chemical, fat-added, sodium-packed foods on the market. Those guys got frozen dinner. And they're pissed.
“Our entire meal was a SHAM!” wrote Suzanne Chan, founder of Mom Confessionals, in a blog post after the event. “We were unwilling participants in a bait-and-switch for Marie Callender’s new frozen three cheese lasagna and there were cameras watching our reactions.” …
“We discussed with the group the sad state of chemical-filled foods,” wrote Mr. Binder [of FoodMayhem.com]. “And yet, you still fed me the exact thing I said I did not want to eat.” (Among the ingredients in the lasagna: sodium nitrate, BHA, BHT, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate.)
So anyway, this is supremely dumb and gross and a little mean, like secretly feeding a vegetarian meat just because she's only morally opposed and not allergic. But it's also made me think I should start using the phrase "madder than a food blogger who ate a frozen dinner," so at least there's that.
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