Yesterday, Greek yogurt titan Chobani decidedly lost the "war on science" that it accidentally started with a real-life hashtag campaign gone wrong.
It all started with the phrase, "Nature got us to 100 calories, not scientists. #howmatters," which was stamped inside the foil sealing on the company's 100-calorie yogurt containers, as part of a larger Chobani advertising push titled "How matters." The campaign stresses Chobani's natural ingredients over its competitors' presumably non-natural ones. The offending sentence probably seemed like a playful (if insincere) way to address consumer's GMO-centered fears. (Or people who just "natural" means "healthier.")
But Chobani must have forgotten that many actual scientists — including food scientists – also eat yogurt, and aren't going to stand for smears against their profession. Naturally, they took over the #howmatters hashtag to complain:
The campaign was especially bold considering the ingredients listed on the black-cherry flavored 100-calorie pack are:
Nonfat Yogurt (Cultured Pasteurized Nonfat Milk), Live and Active Cultures: S. Thermophilus, L. Bulgaricus, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus and L. Casei, Chicory Root Fiber, Black Cherries, Water, Cherry Juice Concentrate, Evaporated Cane Juice, Pectin, Natural Flavors, Locust Bean Gum, Monkfruit Extract, Stevia Leaf Extract.
Which seem to have a much closer relationship to "science" than "nature." This was also commented on:
The outrage was so robust that Chobani finally issued a mea culpa on Twitter announcing the end of the campaign:
We were too clever for our own good - didn’t intend to put down science or scientists with our recent lid. We discontinued it. #WordsMatter— Chobani (@Chobani) June 4, 2014
But they even missed the mark with that apology:
@Chobani I don't think you understand what "clever" means.— Chad Estep (@neurodebris) June 4, 2014
@Chobani You keep using this word "clever". I don't think it means what you think it means.— Dan Gezelter (@gezelter) June 4, 2014
Let this be a cautionary tale for #allbrands: Don't mess with scientists.
Update: The Wire has received the following, slightly more expansive statement from Chobani:
We were being tongue in cheek and perhaps a bit too clever for our own good. The under lid messaging campaign ended last week and was not intended as an indictment of science or scientists. Words matter and your feedback counts.
They'd also like to offer some free yogurt to scientists:
We're inviting all scientists to enjoy a Chobani on us: www.chobani.com/care.
So eat up, scientists, if you're into that.