Case Study

Piller’s Sausage

June 2010
Piller's Kolbassa Sausage

Why we were brought on board

Sound Counsel has been retained by numerous branded food and beverage companies to provide crisis communications assistance relative to food recall and tampering cases.

We have helped Constellation Brands, the manufacturer of Corona and Modelo, during two national food safety recalls stemming from chipped glass in their bottles of beer. We also helped a frozen food processor whose product, it was claimed by a shopper at Walmart, contained a rat jawbone.

Perhaps the most bizarre case involved Canada’s nationally known sausage maker, Piller’s Sausage.

The Crisis

Piller’s Polish sausage is sold in tubular packaging. Over several weeks one spring, grocery store shoppers in the west end of Toronto reported finding sewing needles in their sausage. This unusual situation led some grocery stores to remove Piller’s sausage products from their store shelves. It also generated unwanted national media attention on this family-owned company. Initial news stories cast suspicion on the food processing plant as being the source of the needles in the sausage. Speculation included the possibility that the source was a disgruntled employee inside the plant. Sound Counsel was retained by Piller’s Sausage through its insurance carrier, XL Catlin, to provide crisis communications assistance. We learned the company’s food processing employees were adamant that no needle could escape the plant due to their safety procedures, which included utilizing metal detectors to screen each package.

The Response

We helped craft a media advisory explaining why the sewing needles could not have originated where the sausage was being made and packaged. We also informed the media that the company was in contact with the Toronto Police Service, something they had yet to disclose, and was now offering a reward for any information leading to the arrest of the person tampering with their sausage packages. The Toronto Globe and Mail subsequently reported, “Police in Toronto say someone has been tampering with Polish sausage.” Our efforts were successful in shifting the media’s attention away from the processing plant and off the company, and onto the criminal activity where it belonged. Five weeks later, an elderly woman was arrested for putting the sewing needles in the sausage.

XL Group CEO Mike McGavick characterized our work this way:

“These guys are the best at helping companies determine what to say and how to say it in times of crisis.”

Mike McGavick

CEO, XL Group