Spice company learns the hard way about the wisdom of going 'woke'

Well, it turns out things haven't gone so good for wokester company Penzey's Spices, which ran a "Republicans are racist" campaign for...I am not sure what purpose.  It wasn't business.

According to Fox News:

Wisconsin-based spice company that made headlines earlier this month when its CEO sent an email to customers accusing Republicans of racism is now asking people to buy gift cards after hemorrhaging tens of thousands of customers.

Earlier this month, Penzeys Spices CEO Bill Penzey renamed the extended Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend to be "Republicans are racist weekend" in a newsletter to customers. In the letter, he said his aim was to anger Republicans in honor of the late civil rights icon.

"Remember how Republicans, going against a mountain of evidence to the contrary, once again lied and said BLM wasn't a peaceful movement but instead terrorists inciting violence throughout the country and then raced out to buy a crapload of guns because maybe they were finally going to get their chance to shoot a Black person? What a bunch of racists," the email said.

That was stupid stuff all by itself — Martin Luther King, Jr., after all, was a lifelong Republican.  Doofus here from riot-burned Wisconsin and not far from riot-hit Minneapolis was telling us MLK Jr. was a racist?  This goes beyond typical wokester dumbassery.  And it was a very, very, very big and direct insult to a lot of potential customers on the Republican end.  It was not just the minor wokesterism that comes out of most business executives.

On a more fundamental level, it was a truly bad business decision.  The Fox News report says he lost 40,005 subscribers (and I was one of them) as a result, and found himself reduced to begging the remainers to buy gift cards to replace the lost purchases.  Customers don't buy spices every day, after all, the way they might buy lettuce or apples.  He wanted them to buy now, though, as he was basically raising cash at the expense of future sales to buy time rather than focusing on drawing in new sales.  The customer exits amounted to 3% of the company base.  Being in the food industry, that must have hurt, given its generally low margins.  The fact that he's at the chi-chi end of things, in an era of inflation and cutting back, must have made it even worse.  Get woke, go broke, accelerated with Bidenflation.

Penzey himself said he had actually expected customers to boycott his company with his idiot hate campaign:

"After starting the year with All Republicans are Republicans and following up with Republicans are Racists we've set a nice little Boycott Penzeys! surge in motion," Penzey wrote. "It certainly wasn't unexpected, but if it's within your means, you picking up a small stack of Gift Cards would help."

Nobody sane does that, given that the spice industry is a competitive one.  If you are in that industry, you need to retain every last customer.  Already there are lots of low-end rivals emerging as substitutes to beat inflation from the Latin, Near Eastern, and Asian food sectors, now filling even Walmarts with their cellophane packets, which are very good if you need annatto, epazote, Mexican oregano, all kinds of exotics and even some basics.  Penzey's has nice high-end products, but there are also many high-end rivals emerging, too, particularly from the Pacific Northwest.  SpiceandTea.com and WorldSpice.com look like nice suppliers on the fancy side that I'm thinking of trying out.

Spices are a big deal if you like to cook.  I wrote about the supply chain issues they face back in 2020, here, so it's pretty obvious that Penzey's in a tough industry.

What doesn't work is converting a spice supplier into a platform for insulting customers with wokester tripe that does nothing for either the company or the causes espoused.  It really was a stupid thing that he did.  He ought to be glad he doesn't answer to shareholders from his private company.

Penzey could have donated all the profits he liked from his company or personal earnings to some left-wing cause, and nothing would have happened.  Republicans have tolerated leftist views for years from the executives of the companies they buy from.  We all love Martha Stewart and can safely assume that she donates to left-wing causes, but there is no reason to boycott her — she puts out a quality product, and it's her money to do with as she pleases. What she doesn't do is target and insult her customers, effectively declaring she doesn't want their money.  That's what Penzey did, unleashing a boycott on his products that he anticipated, no less, which turned out to be biting off more than he could chew. 

Now, instead of growing his business, he's doing clean-up, trying to recover lost sales instead of growing new ones.  What was he thinking?  Does he really think all Republicans are racist?  He knows very well they are not unless he lives in a bubble so tight he's never actually met one.  Maybe he ought to get out a little.  It's weird stuff for an executive of a global spice company, which must source from all over the world, to be acting as if he's never been out of the wokester part of Minneapolis.  It actually raises questions about whether he knows much at all.

He can fix this by apologizing to his insulted customers and focusing on the industry he's in, not the crazed politics he wishes he were in.  That's where he's at now.

(UPDATE: This post was updated to clarify that Penzey's CEO is in Wisconsin, not Minnesota.)

Image: Mr. T. in D.C. via FlickrCC BY-ND 2.0.

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