Britvic rocked by new 'off odour' recall incident in Ireland

By Ben Bouckley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags United kingdom Soft drink Soft drinks Britvic

Britvic rocked by new 'off odour' recall incident in Ireland
Britvic has withdrawn Ballygowan Water products from sale in Northern Ireland and Ireland due to an 'off odor', according to the UK FSA and the Irish FSAI, in the second recall-related incident to blight the company in as many months.

750ml Still Plastic Ballygowan Water and 1 litre Still Ballygowan Sports Water have both been withdrawn from sale in Northern Ireland.

The product batch code for the 750ml product is L2139 (the same batch code also applies to Ireland) and has a best before end date of May 2013; the affected 1 litre batch code is L2143, with a best before date of May 2013.

"As a precautionary measure, certain batch/date codes of the above products have been withdrawn due to an off odour noticed in a small number of drinks,"​ the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) said in a statement, which was broadly similar to one issued concurrently by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI)

Products pulled from distributors

Britvic Ireland has withdrawn the above batch of the product from distributors on a precautionary basis, and the FSA urged consumers who noticed an off odor to contact the company and arrange a refund.

No other Britvic Ireland products are known to be affected, but the incident risks further reputational damage to Britvic itself, after analysts suggested that the firm could be vulnerable to a takeover​.

Ballygowan was recently relaunched with new packaging and a revamped brand design (both by design consultancy pi global) to cater for rising consumer health awareness and a shift away from carbonates; centrally placed waisting on bottles was also used to make them balanced and ergonomic to hold.

In April, six weeks after the relaunch, Sian Price, Ballygowan product manager, said the 750ml bottle in particular had significantly exceeded the firm's sales expectations.

Embattled management

Britvic management is still battling to recover from the effects of an design flaw affecting the 'spill proof' caps on its Fruit Shoot products, which saw drinks pulled from shelves in key markets including Great Britain and France.

The company estimated in mid July that the first incident could cost it £25m in FY 2012, and the drinks only returned to supermarket shelves late last week (using an in-market proven sports cap) with the firm backing a relaunch via television advertising and PR campaign.

"We're confident that our heavyweight competition plans will reassure parents that the brand that first created the kids soft drink sub-category is available and here to stay,"​ said Jonathan Gatward, Britvic Soft Drinks GB marketing director.

Dr. Christos-Dmitris Tsinopoulos, senior lecturer in operations and project management at the University of Durham, originally labeled Britvic's Fruit Shoot recall situation 'embarrassing'.

But one month on Tsinopoulos told that Britvic had managed the crisis fairly effectively: "They quickly admitted the mistake and developed a credible course of action," ​he said.

"Managing the quality of the supply chain is key for large companies nowadays, although the key is not so much policing but in developing it. With critical items such as the one [the cap] that went wrong in this case, suppliers need to be integrated with the customers to ensure that their design both meets the relevant specification, but, more critically in this case, is manufactured in a way that is fault free,"​ he added.

"Clearly the latter went wrong here."

New designs are risky...

Asked how extensively products such as Britvic's faulty Magicap were tested before their market debut, Tsinopoulos said it was hard to answer this question without knowing the details of their manufacturing and supply chain processes.

"Nevertheless, and again given the critical nature of the product, testing before release is critical...The events, however, demonstrated that not all the potential scenarios were explored and mistakes found their way into procedures."

Tsinopoulos agreed that there was a tension between novel packaging innovations (such as 'spill proof' caps) that could boost sales as a point of difference, and the risk of them backfiring in functional terms, through faults or the fact they were fiddly for consumers to use.

 "Any new design is risky, but as packaging becomes more critical for marketing product, manufacturers are likely to push the boundaries more and more, and mistakes will happen,"​ he said.

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