There is a strong chance that you’ve heard about vegan company, Daily Harvest, whether you’re plant-based or not. And, that is no accident. The food service used aggressive social media marketing that resulted in swift success. However, its presence online may ultimately be its downfall…
Daily Harvest was founded by Rachel Drori in 2015. The business grew quickly riding a wave of celebrity hype, viral posts, and loyal customers.
IN 2021, THE BRAND WAS EVALUATED AT APPROXIMATELY $1.1 BILLION DOLLARS!
Not only that but the founder, Drori, was put on the Forbes list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women in 2022.
Despite all these achievements, DH’s sales are down 65% from this time last year and customers are dropping like flies.
So, what happened and how can we learn from its mistakes?
Well, for it all to make sense we have to go back to Daily Harvest’s roots…
Daily Harvest DUG IN to Social Media
Rachel Drori was inspired to create the herbivore subscription plan while scrolling through Instagram. As she did so, the aesthetic presentation of the food made her hungry which sparked an idea…
FROM THERE, THE FIRST INCARNATION OF DAILY HARVEST WAS BORN WITH DRIORI MAKING SMOOTHIES IN HER KITCHEN.
So, it is no surprise that Daily Harvest’s branding was centered around being “Insta-worthy” like the post below…
Additionally, the vegan company was one of the first to adopt and utilize effective influencer marketing.
Some of the A-listers affiliated with the plant-based program are:
- Gweneth Paltrow
- Serena Williams
- Sean White
- And, Bobby Flay
THE REVENUE WAS GROWING ALONGSIDE THE AMOUNT OF ATTENTION ON DAILY HARVEST’S SOCIAL PLATFORMS.
Influencers were pushing the company to their large followings. And, DH had its own powerful energy on social media.
But they failed to use that same power when it came to something that put their customers at risk…
In April 2022, Daily Harvest sent out emails and packages to influencers on their PR list about their “French Lentil + Leek Crumbles.” The meat substitute was described as…
“SNAPPY LENTILS, HERBALICIOUS THYME, AND NUTTY PORCINI MUSHROOMS WITH A KISS OF SWEETNESS FROM BUTTERNUT SQUASH.”
The crumbles even had their own hashtag — #BigPlantEnergy. (Yes, we are cringing too.) But over the next few weeks, things weren’t sitting well with people who consumed the lentil product…
AS EARLY AS JUNE 2022, DAILY HARVEST EMPLOYEES, CUSTOMERS AND THEIR FAMILIES WERE GETTING EXTREMELY SICK.
Initially, clients were reaching out to the company with their problems in hopes for DH to improve. Then, more importantly, for those affected to get better…
Daily Harvest DID NOT Contact FDA
Daily Harvest did not follow the standard operating procedures when there is a suspicion of foodborne illness.
The fruit-and-veggie slingers responded to complaints by placing responsibility on the consumer…
They sent a canned email response explaining to cook the Lentil Crumbles longer. They also added a post on their website — which since have been suspiciously removed.
The steps to handle a situation this kind are:
- Report it to the Food and Drug Administration
- Alert consumers directly via email with a bold RECALL in the subject line.
- Voluntarily recall the product.
Instead, Daily Harvest marked the product as simply out of stock. After things got more serious, they only updated old posts without making new ones.
In the meantime, there were…
393 reports of adverse illness.
130 hospitalizations linked directly to the French Lentils….
40 gallbladder removals from the severity of effects.
On top of all this, the FDA is investigating if the ingredient responsible can cause lasting liver problems.
Despite these disturbing reports, Daily Harvest wanted to keep doing things for the Gram…
Daily Harvest Played Dress-Up While Stomachs Churned
Thereafter, there was no shadow of a doubt that the entire lentil line was contaminated…
AND SO WAS THE APPROVAL FROM THEIR AUDIENCE.
The backlash on their social media posts was cutthroat. Those same public figures who used to endorse their clean, tasty food were denouncing them and telling their stories.
Twitter user @poisonedbyDH — who prefers to remain anonymous — wrote in her bio:
DAILY HARVEST POSIONED ME AND HUNDREDS OF OTHERS, AND THEY DON’T CARE. THEY DRAG THEIR FEET AND GASLIGHT AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY. IT’S DISGUSTING AND PATHETIC.
Now, the question is that what did the CEO and founder decide was the best thing to do while this was happening?
HAVE A COMPANY-WIDE PARTY WITH OVER A HUNDRED PEOPLE AND ITS OWN HASHTAG OF COURSE!
Yes, in October 2022, Rachel Driori and a hundred-plus Daily Harvest employees held #Harfest at a campground in Connecticut. It had everything…
A silent disco…
Plant-based s’mores around the campfire…
And a boozy villains and superheroes masquerade party…
The only thing it didn’t have was self-awareness.
Now, as I mentioned before, the company’s sales are down 65% and the victims of the food poisoning are suing the brand.
That being said, is there any way that this budding startup could have saved itself?
How Daily Harvest Could Have Saved Its Crop
Foodborne illness outbreaks happen. In the same year as Lentil-Gate, fast-food chain Wendy’s customers were getting sick from the romaine lettuce they used.
And as you can see, they are still successfully making square hamburgers.
Daily Harvest would have had to do the bare minimum and still be on the top of the food chain today.
- Acknowledge there was a problem
- Follow SOP
- Inform their clients properly
- Be sensitive instead of trying to “be cool” on IG
Ultimately, Daily Harvest forgot one of the most important rules of business…
Your product and services have to solve problems and help people.
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