retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Chick-fil-A, the fast food chain, said yesterday that it will stop selling chicken products made from fowl raised with antibiotics. Concerns have been raised in the public health community about the use of antibiotics on healthy animals, generally as a way to promote faster growth, would have a negative impact by making animals resistant to antibiotics uses for fighting disease.

The New York Times story notes that the decision "exemplified what Daymon Worldwide, a consulting firm that works with the food industry and others, has identified as 'free-from,' a quest among consumers for pure and simple products, free of preservatives, highly processed ingredients and anything artificial."

And, the decision was applauded by Consumers Union, the public policy arm of Consumer Reports. "Chick-Fil-A deserves credit for taking this important step to protect public health,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union.  “We need to stop wasting these critical medications on healthy livestock."

It is expected that it will take Chick-fil-A five years to fully implement its new policy.
KC's View:
Here's one of the things that I think is most impressive about the Chick-fil-A decision …

The Times writes that "the company said consumer demand was responsible for the change. 'We have an ongoing process of constantly monitoring what our consumers prefer in terms of health and nutrition and what’s in our food, and this issue surfaced as the No. 1 issue for our customers,' said Tim Tassopoulos, executive vice president for operations at Chick-fil-A."

There are a lot of companies out there that, having made such a decision, would claim that consumer preferences had nothing to do with the process and that they'd been planning such a shift long before consumers even got interested in the subject. A claim, by the way, that I never believe.

Companies should not just be willing to admit that consumer opinion has affected their decisions, but should embrace such lobbying as an opportunity to talk about being responsive. That's a positive, not a negative.

And by the way, since I can see the emails coming … being willing to make shifts related to consumer opinion is not the same as managing by licking one's finger and holding it up to see which way the wind is blowing. One can strategically work to figure out what consumers want and need even before they do, and then tactically make adjustments when consumer opinion becomes known.