Amid a slew of public relations controversies, representatives from Chicecream (“Zhong Xue Gao”) – known in China as the “Hermes of ice cream” – apologized via Weibo on Thursday for two 2019 false advertising incidents, while remaining steadfast against accusations of overpricing and holding a bad attitude towards consumers.
On June 15, a post on the social media site claiming Chicecream products are overpriced trended on Weibo. According to domestic media outlet Lanjinger, which first reported the topic, the company’s founder Lin Sheng gave off an arrogant attitude when discussing their products’ prices in a recent interview with Beijing TV.
“Our profits are just a little higher than those of traditional ice cream,” Lin said, while acknowledging that the most expensive ice cream they have ever sold was a product called “Ecuador Pink” that cost 66 yuan ($10) each.
Adhering to its premium ice cream brand positioning, Chicecream has always sold at a higher rate than traditional brands, with products usually hovering around 15-20 yuan ($2-3) – three to five times the average market price.
“(Ecuador Pink) sold at 66 yuan each, but its cost was 40 yuan ($6) already… It’s just this expensive, take it or leave it,” Lin said in the edited video.
The Weibo post soon went viral on the internet, amassing over 700 million reads and 63,000 comments. Many netizens joined in the agitation by sharing their own experiences with Chicecream products, while others chastised Lin’s attitude.
“Cool, I’ll leave it then,” the most popular comment said, while another lamented, “among all the ice cream brands I’ve tried, Chicecream was the one brand I would never buy anything from again. It’s expensive and it tastes bad.”
Lanjinger later published another report on June 16 targeting the brand’s string of false advertising incidents since March 2019, which have landed them two administrative penalties from Shanghai’s Municipal Administration for Market Regulation.
According to the report, one of Chicecream’s milk flavored ice cream products was advertised to be made only of milk, containing “not a single drop of water,” but the ingredients list included purified water. Another product said to contain “premium level,” Turpan-produced raisins was found to have used only “first level,” bulk-packaged raisins.
Other violations of consumers’ rights included an exaggerated representation of ingredients in their matcha powder, as well as the fabrication of a non-existent award for cheddar cheese used in one product.
Chicecream offered their response to the controversies on June 17. An apology letter addressing the various penalties from false advertising incidents in 2019 was displayed on the company’s official Weibo account.
“We are deeply sorry for the mistakes we once made… Our company was at its earliest startup stages at the time, and did not have enough experience and knowledge concerning relevant regulations. More importantly, we lacked a strict review mechanism for communication between providing and publicizing ends,” the letter expressed.
Two hours after the letter was posted, the company released a lawyer’s letter through the same Weibo account. The document accused Lanjinger of defaming the founder Lin, and requested the immediate halt of such action, as well as an apology and reparations of the damage caused by media reports.
Furthermore, Chicecream posted an unedited video of Lin’s original interview with Beijing TV, which showed that the heavily-criticized “take it or leave it” comment was not made by Lin to the brand’s consumers, but instead came from the company’s ingredient supplier to Lin with regards to the goods that the founder deemed too expensive.
Chicecream alleged that the video posted by Lanjinger was maliciously edited to stir up dispute, indicating that the company will spare no effort to protect their rights.
Founded in 2018, the Shanghai-based company has previously sought to emphasize its Chinese origins, gaining popularity in recent years through precision marketing that targets young customers seeking chic products. It completed its Series A financing round in May, in which it bagged 200 million yuan ($30.7 million) from Genesis Capital, H Capital and Wanwu Capital.