A leading producer of private label milk and butter for many of the largest U.S. retailers was among the first to produce organic dairy products at scale, to meet rising demand from major national retail partners and to keep organic milk affordable by achieving economies without compromising standards. In a contentious category with roots in small family farms, the size of the company’s operations made it a target for scrutiny and criticism.
An organic dairy policy group with ties to competing producers conducted a years-long activist campaign targeting the company, making false claims about farm practices, trespassing to capture photos, creating an “organic dairy scorecard” reflecting poorly on the company and filing complaints repeatedly with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). When the producer and USDA agreed on updated organic production practices, activists seized on this news as evidence of guilt. Class-action lawsuits were filed, claiming that the company’s milk failed to meet USDA Organic standards, and major national retail accounts were pressured to switch to other organic milk sources.
Linhart PR recommended and implemented a proactive integrated reputation recovery communications strategy to regain control of the narrative, fight back against attacks and preserve key customer relationships. Key activities included:
As a result of the team’s efforts, key customer relationships were maintained, the climate of media opinion began to improve and the company began to build out a comprehensive approach to organic dairy stewardship, sustainability practices and partnerships with key stakeholders and host communities. All class-action lawsuits were settled, and the most important indicator of reputation management success is that the company not only survived these challenges but continues to thrive.