How do you react to a competitor’s mistake?

Maybe a better question is “*Do* you react to a competitor’s mistake?”

I haven’t seen much reaction – other than from consumers – to what is collectively a milk-clouded failure of government (the Food and Drug Administration), but more importantly (yeah, go figure<g>) one of the dumbest things a corporation – in fact, several – could do.

America’s corporate chocolate candy makers thought it was a good idea to (effectively) take the chocolate out of milk chocolate and replace it with vegetable oil. And the FDA went along with it after an acceptable amount of lobbying.

It is CRITICAL to note that the FDA didn’t say that milk chocolate CAN’T contain cacao fat (from cocoa butter), but more or less that “Oh, it just doesn’t *have* to include cocoa butter”. AND that is exactly what the big corporate chocolatiers wanted.

Kinda like “high fructose corn syrup tastes the same as cane sugar”. Pass the vegetable oil and corn syrup, yummy!

As the big corporates say, most people probably don’t care. They also say consumers prefer the new oil-based candy. Of course, these are likely the same consumers who don’t pay attention to the news, don’t read labels, etc. 

Are those the typical customers of gourmet stores? Not likely. Are those the same clients you want? The kind who can’t tell (or don’t care about) the difference between great from tolerable?

This situation seems like an obvious easy target for all the makers of gourmet – or even mid-level – chocolates. Seems like an substantial opportunity for every local chocolate maker, every gourmet store, every user of chocolate of any kind (not just milk chocolate) to differentiate themselves from low-rent, average, oil and high-fructose corn syrup based chocolate.

Yet none of the gourmet stores in my area, none of the ones that I watch via Google Alerts, none of the ones that already sell stuff to me, and none of the ones who have me on their mailing list (or email list) have said a single word about this issue.

This despite the fact that the FDA rule change was made over a year ago.

Imagine Ruth’s Chris Steak House’s reaction if Morton’s or Charley’s said they were taking the beef out of their Filet Mignon and replacing it with texturized vegetable protein (or sheep, or chicken lips, whatever).

Maybe I’m putting words in their mouth, but I suspect Ruth’s would be all over that. It would be a mistake that their competition would pay dearly for. Even if Ruth’s competition reversed themselves, it would be easy to position them as anything other than a real steak house because they tried to slide that juicy soy-based filet mignon onto your plate.

Gourmet chocolate stores don’t have to be rude about it. They simply need to position themselves as the only real source of chocolate for those who can tell the difference between high quality, great tasting chocolate and oil.

What mistakes are your competition making and not paying for? You might be thinking “This doesn’t apply to me”. It doesn’t matter if you sell pizza, coffee, tennis rackets, scooters, roofing materials, or legal services – this applies to your business. 

Let me ask the question a different way… Why are you content to let the public assume that you offer the same quality of products that your competitors do?

That’s what everyone thinks until you give them a reason to think differently about your business.