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Leaderbrand Withdraws From Whole Lettuce Market

Leaderbrand Withdraws From Whole Lettuce Market

LeaderBrand


Media Statement March 16, 2003

LEADERBRAND WITHDRAWS TEMPORARILY FROM WHOLE LETTUCE MARKET
- “We’re not prepared to give our customers inferior product”

The country’s largest marketer of head lettuces is surrendering – at least temporarily - to the lettuce aphid.

LeaderBrand is withdrawing its supply of wrapped iceberg lettuce, at least until it can better control the aphid problem. It claims it is another of the victims of gaps in New Zealand’s ability to manage internal biosecurity.

LeaderBrand will continue to market its triple-washed fresh packed salad range, which is aphid-free.

Announcing this, LeaderBrand’s Fresh Produce Business Manager Marcus Griffin said the decision was taken solely in the interests of protecting the LeaderBrand brand, and the satisfaction of its customers. The Company will be ploughing in lettuce crops that would have been in the market this weekend.

“We do not want our customers to have an inferior product, and the current level of consumer complaints suggests they don’t want that either.

“In terms of our brand, this issue has the potential to cause the business long-term damage unless we take action.

“We’ve got the only wrapped and branded head lettuce in the market. When a consumer has a bad experience with unbranded lettuce, it’s put down to ‘a problem with lettuce’. When they have a bad experience with our lettuce, it is a LeaderBrand problem. We have to take this seriously”

Mr Griffin says LeaderBrand’s decision might leave the market under-supplied for a period.

“Naturally we feel for consumers in these circumstances, but at the same time we are not prepared to give our customers an inferior product. We have to be responsible.”

Biosecurity Issue

Fundamentally the lettuce aphid issue is further evidence of the gaps in the country’s ability to manage biosecurity on a regional basis. It is in the same category as the honey industry’s varroa mite. It differs from painted apple moth to the extent the lettuce aphid has been judged by government officials as not worth doing anything about.

Packaged Salad Option

In withdrawing from the head lettuce market, LeaderBrand will lift production of fresh packaged salads.

“We see the opportunity to offer our customers an alternative. We have a full range of packed salads, and one of these is predominantly iceberg. These salads are triple-washed and aphid-free.

“This is something positive we can do in the current trying times for our customers and the Company.”

Marketing Head Lettuce Again

LeaderBrand says it will look at the possible resumption of its marketing of branded iceberg lettuces on a week-by-week basis.

Mr Griffin said factors in this decision would be the effectiveness of aphid control systems; a tolerance level that the Company itself finds acceptable; and the possible effects of the weather in reducing aphid numbers.

“When we’re back, we will be making sure our customers know.”

ENDS

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