"It's All Good", or so their slogan says. But is it?
We questioned the ingredients in the pizza pocket and then received a notice from McCain's ad agency that the ingredients had changed and we should have a look. Funnily enough, when we hopped over to the McCain Pizza Pocket website, the following was splashed across their website:
Can a nutritionist and a Pizza Pockets® snack get along?
My immediate response was no. Then I decided I'd best offer them the benefit of the doubt. And so I decided that I would send an email over with a few preliminary questions to find out if, in fact, Pizza pockets could become my new best friend. See, they have this fantastic campaign where they are working to re-work over 70 of their recipes. They're claim is "Shouldn't food be the only ingredient in food?" Yes! Yes it should.
I suppose the challenge then comes in of how we each define 'food'. It seems McCain is still using a lot of ingredients that could use some reworking. And wouldn't I love to help! Foods claiming to be 'real food' should contain all 'real food'. How do you define real food? (Tweet that Q to your peeps)
McCain described their pizza pockets as follows:
These all-time favourites are more nutritious than you may think. Baked, not fried, they’re made with simple,wholesome ingredients that contain no artificial colours or flavours.
I decided to have a look at the ingredients at the Pepperoni variety - what they deem their most popular flavour.
Crust: enriched wheat flour, water, soy oil, ground flaxseed, corn starch, vegetable oil shortening, soy lecithin, yeast, salt, sugar, wheat gluten.
Filling: pepperoni [pork, water, sea salt, cultured celery powder (bacterial culture), spices, tapioca starch, sugar, dehydrated garlic, smoke flavour, corn fibre], water, part skim mozzarella cheese (partly skimmed milk, modified milk ingredients, bacterial culture, salt, calcium chloride, microbial enzymes), tomato paste, corn starch, sugar, salt, spices, granulated garlic.
Remember when I spoke of the three ingredients that decode healthwashing? Enriched flour, sugar and margarine or vegetable oil? I can also remind you about that little factoid about heating omega 3's as it relates to ground flaxseed in baking.
In my brief poking around on the site, I was quick to find other VERY suspect ingredients like cottonseed oil (found in their fries), "natural colours" and "natural flavours" in their juices (which we know aren't really natural at all), and a cocktail of calcium lactate, sodium citrate, malic acid, colour, dextrose, sodium phosphate in their hashbrowns.
Like Loblaws, I sincerely believe the peeps over at McCain and are working their very hardest to get their products cleaner and safer for their consumers. I decided the best way to assist in the matter was to open a dialogue. Sadly. It turned out to be one way.
January 18th, 2012
MT: Hi there! I am e-mailing on behalf of Meghan Telpner, a popular nutritionist and writer in Toronto. We are interested in interviewing someone about the new program McCain is running, "It''s All Good". Thanks so much! With kindness, Maeve Gallagher Biz developer and online community manager Meghan Telpner Inc.
McCain: Hello, Ms. Gallagher, Your email request has been passed along to me. Can you please provide me with some additional details such as the purpose of the interview, where the story will appear, when is your deadline and what questions you plan to ask. Based on your response, we will try to meet your needs. Thank you for your interest in McCain Foods (Canada) and our McCain It’s All GoodTM journey.
MT: Thank you so much for getting back to me about the interview! We would love to have a discussion with someone for Meghan Telpner's blog. We had noticed the pizza pocket/nutrition reference and would love to be able to expand on this thought further!
What is McCain’s definition of wholesome, real food?
You mention you have reworked about 70 recipes for McCain products. What were the main ingredients you focused on removing?
What inspired the change in your product line?
On your website, you ask if a ‘nutritionist and a pizza pockets snack can get along’. Did you work with a nutritionist in formulating any of these recipes? Have any nutritionists been employed to promote these new versions of the old favourites?
You mention you are on the way to removing the artificial and synthetic ingredients in your products. Would you be able to offer any insight as to how they got in there in the first place?
How do you define artificial or synthetic ingredients? Why are these ingredients unwanted by your customers?
Where do you source your natural ingredients from? (vegetables, cheese, meat, etc)
Are 100% of the ingredients in your products made from real food?
Are there any specific products you can highlight and why you think they are healthier?
We noticed you list soybean oil and canola oil in your ingredients. Why did you choose these oils, and why do you think these are the best oils to use in your products?
How do you create your natural colours and flavours?
MT: Just following up in regards to the interview request I had submitted. I also had forwarded along our list of questions. We would love to feature this interview on Meghan's blog - so please let me know if you will be moving forward!
MT: Any chance we would be able to move forward with our interview? Please let me know either way.
MLITK: I have yet to hear back from you in regards to our proposed interview for Meghan Telpner Inc. I believe I provided all the stipulated details which were necessary to move forward.
Yep. We were fully ignored. It seems that even as a nutritionist trying to get along with a pizza pocket, I was being shunned. Stood up. Left out in the cold, No pizza pockets for me. Wouldn't it be amazing if pizza pockets were something we could go to the store and buy, throw in the oven and bake and have ready to serve for the family? If they were really clean and wholesome enough to do it and really feel good about it - ditching any healthwashing claims? I truly think it's possible. I could offer loads of options to make this product more wholesome and healthy (as opposed to just being healthier). In fact, I am sure many of you could too, as you are all a very wise and informed group.
Perhaps together we can make this happen. Answer the question of the day and tweet this up! "Can a pizza pocket and a nutritionist be friends?'
Question Of the Day: How do you define a "real food" ingredient?
Follow Up - One Month Later
After attempting to interview someone - anyone! - at the company in regards to their new "It's All Good" campaign, our e-mails were dutifully ignored and we received no response after the initial inquiry about the nature of our interview.
The thing is - after we posted our questions for McCain, it turned out a lot of you good peeps were looking for answers, too. We received countless comments and e-mails asking for a follow-up to our interview with McCain. Did we get our answers, you wanted to know? We followed up multiple times, with no response.
Apparently we weren't the only ones e-mailing McCain for answers. One of my sweet, sweet readers was horrified to learn McCain wouldn't answer our straight forward Qs. Won't share her e-mail to McCain to keep her privacy airtight, but it went along the lines of...
"Quite some time has passed since those questions were asked of you. I know as a consumer, I rethink purchases with each and every company when handed information such as this..." Our fearless reader kindly submitted her query to us and we all collectively hoped to hear back. I'm really starting to think McCain's customer service blows (if you agree - tweet today's tweetable).
Well, McCain did indeed respond to our reader. Two weeks later. Not the most timely, but better than nothing. Maeve had started to think our e-mails were lost in the giant corporate abyss of McCain - turns out, as you can see below, they got the message loud and clear.
Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2012 18:46:32 +0000
Dear Ms. XXXXXXXX,
Thank you for your query. Our first priority is our consumers. We answer each and every question we get from our consumers whether it’s by telephone, email, regular mail, on our facebook page, etc. as quickly as we can. As you can imagine we get quite a volume of correspondence and we always put our consumers first over others. The request from this blogger was lower down on our priority list. Admittedly, we would have preferred to have responded sooner, simply to avoid the negative statements on her blog. Your comments demonstrate that her negative blog is raising questions among some of our consumers. That is unfortunate and a situation that we will try to avoid in future. We apologize that you were disappointed in our lack of response and we are committed to doing better in future. Thank you for reminding us of the importance of timely responses to all queries, whether they come from our consumers or not.
Consumer Affairs on behalf of Public Relations"
Funny to see that their first "priority" is their customers. They must mean making the most amount of money possible out of selling crapola to their consumers. Tomato-tomatoh. I don't necessarily agree my post was negative - after all, we are shiny happy people here and try to give even the biggest of companies the benefit of the doubt. I really, really did want McCain to respond and give us all some good news. I hoped I would get a sweet response like I had from Loblaws...but alas, no response has come.
So, my sweet readers - I am leaving this one to you. Tell McCain why we deserve to know the truth about the ingredients in their products!
Sound good? Send McCain an e-mail or contact them through Facebook. And don't forget to tweet today's tweetable and let the Twitterverse know how crummy McCain's customer service is. Let us know if you get a response!