The dust is now starting to settle on what must surely be the worst week in Genius’ short history.
Since its launch in 2009, the gluten-free company, founded by Lucinda Bryce-Gardyne, has really had only positive PR to handle. It is one of bakery’s success stories and has so far dominated the UK’s gluten-free market.
But last week marked what could be the beginning of a different story, when 20 products were recalled across its own brands and own-label products from all the five major multiples, due to gluten contamination.
Genius handled the situation well by issuing product recalls in accordance with the Food Standards Agency, as well as an apology that conveyed both that it understood the seriousness of the situation and also that products remaining on shelves were safe to eat.
That was bad enough, so it was extremely unfortunate when, two days later, another five supermarket label products joined the list of the unsaleable. The follow-up recall was issued with the same assurances regarding the health of those who may have eaten the contaminated products. This is where Genius may have slipped up and it remains to be seen whether it can recover.
The recalled products tested between 5ppm and 80ppm for gluten content, which is still a very low amount and would not pose a major risk to even quite sensitive coeliacs or those with an intolerance. Why, then, have consumers taken to social media with angry and disappointed messages as they feel the brand failed them - and why do so many claim to have had major allergic reactions to the recalled products?
Genius now has quite a battle on its hands as it tries to restore consumer faith in its brand. I think it needs to follow up with every customer who claims illness or disappointment and it needs to more adequately explain the presence of gluten in its gluten-free facility. So far, all we know is that it came from a dry product that shouldn’t have been on site.
It may well have been let down by its supply chain, but when the ramifications are so major, with such widespread upset, the checks surely need to be more rigorous.
I for one, feel disappointed for Genius as it was a brand on the clear ascendant and now it is having to deal with damage control.