Pret A Manger – Virgin Mary crisps – And the power of blogging

Irrespective of your views as to the offensiveness or otherwise of the Pret A Manger sandwich chain branding their new crisps as ‘Virgin Mary’, something must be noted relating to the potential power and influence of blogging.

Deacon Nick Donelly first highlighted this on his popular blog Protect the Pope back on the 30th January:

The Pret A Manger sandwich chain have decided to insult their Catholic customers by naming their new Worcestershire Sauce flavoured crisps, ‘Virgin Mary Crisps’

A reader of Protect the Pope wrote to Pret A Manger to complain, making the point that Pret A Manger would not dare to mock the Muslim or Jewish faiths so why have they seen fit to mock Christianity. Why they should make such an appalling, tasteless and offensive lapse of judgement.’

This is the reply from their CEO:

‘It happens that I am a Catholic. I have examined my conscience about the naming of our crisps. The term Virgin Mary is widely used in the market today to describe a well known cocktail: a tomato juice with Worcester sauce and without vodka. I have consulted a lot of people in our office about this and that is what they all think of when they see our crisps packet. Please, please don’t take offence. None is intended.’

Protect the Pope comment: The Pret A Manger’s CEO should know better than to use the name of Our Lady, the Mother of God, to sell a snack food. It’s cheap, demeans the name of the Virgin Mary, and offends Catholics who hold Our Lady in the highest regard.  It’s irrelevant what the CEO’s employees tell him in the office about the appropriateness of the name, it’s what Catholics think that counts.  What will practicing Catholics first think of when they see the name ‘Virgin Mary crisps’? Not a well known cocktail for sure.

It appears that as a result of this blog post, readers were motivated to complain.

The upshot of this is taken from a Protect the Pope blog post today:

Pret A Manger has contacted Protect the Pope to inform us that following yesterday’s post on their Virgin Mary brand of crisps and readers of our site contacting them to express their concern Pret A Manger’s CEO Clive Schlee has decided to remove this brand immediately from their outlets.  Pret A Manger has apologised for any unintentional offence they have caused and have indicted that they will give any unsold crisps to the homeless. Clive Schlee has admitted to a reader of Protect the Pope that taking this brand of crisps off their shelves will cost them quite a bit of money but ‘good businesses listen and react quickly’.

Deacon Nick Donelly comments:

Clive Schlee and Pret A Manger deserve our unreserved thanks for listening to our concerns as Catholics and for acting so quickly to remove the brand of crisps. It seems fitting that Pret A Manger are planning to give any unsold crisps to the homeless. Thanks also to the readers of Protect the Pope for contacting Pret A Manger to express their concerns. God bless you all for your passion and desire to stand up for our Catholic faith.  I’d like to express my special thanks to the reader of Protect the Pope who first brought this news to our attention, but wants to remain anonymous.  One of the things we need to go away and think about is what this incident tells us about how we defend our faith in the future. We’ve been passive for too long in the face of mockery of our faith and discrimination against us as Catholics. We can change things!

This incident has now hit the BBC and the story is currently rated as the second ‘Most Read’ story on the BBC website.

As I said earlier, irrespective of your view on the issue at the heart of the matter, this is a dramatic example of a Catholic /Christian blogger exerting tremendous influence even over a powerful chain of shops.

This is surely noteworthy in itself.

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One Response to “Pret A Manger – Virgin Mary crisps – And the power of blogging”

  1. Peter D Says:

    It is a pity tho’ that the same ground-swell of ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ types can’t muster themselves to a worthwhile cause! I fully understand where they are coming from and I agree we have to pussy-foot around Jews and Muslims, so why not Christians (tho’ probably less so than is putatively believed by those eager to get the top place in the ‘hierarchy of oppression’ created more in the mind than actuality). But still it is sad that something so inconsequential seems to gain so much support.

    I’ve just been listening to the Westminster Hour on Radio 4 and an MP (didn’t hear her name) made a really interesting point about the gay-marriage vote to take place later this week. Yes, it is free vote because it is seen as a moral issue. But voting, as MPs did a few weeks ago, to cut benefits to some of Britain’s most vulnerable and poorest people was also a moral issue, yet we didn’t see the Christian media running round in small circles or Scottish Cardinals preaching from the pulpit on this issue did we. Which I think says a lot about how so much of public Christianity gets its priorities wrong.

    With many of the recent high profile ‘persecution’ cases we have heard little from Christian leaders and commentators about Christ’s call to forgive, turn other cheek and humility. Now paranoia rules – and paranoia is also a species of vanity…

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