George Duran PR Dinner Becomes ConAgra Frozen Meal Focus Group

September 7, 2011

Cindy Zhou of Chubby Chinese Girl recently wrote about an unusual dinner for food bloggers and other food media hosted by George Duran and Phil Lempert that went awry. Judging by the photo above of Zhou's invite, the media thought they were previewing the duo's latest four-course food project at a pop-up restaurant, but it was actually a frozen meal focus group for ConAgra. This last detail wasn't unveiled until the group finished a lackluster meal, participated in guided discussions about eating seasonal, fresh ingredients and received a copy of Duran's cookbook.

The final reveal, however, was that all of the food served came from Marie Callender's frozen boxed meals. Duran merely plated the food items as a chef would, adding fresh herbs or a scoop of ice cream as necessary. What's more, the entire meal was filmed.

As you might imagine, the frozen meal focus group didn't sit well with Zhou. She wrote, "Either they were too confident about their products or just didn't believe in our palates and tastebuds... I'm not their target consumer and they were totally off by thinking I would buy or promote their highly processed frozen foods after tricking me to taste it."

What do you think about the bait-and-switch blogger dinner?

Update: Zhou wasn't the only blogger to criticize the dinner, and ConAgra has since apologized for the stunt. Stephanie Moritz, ConAgra's senior director of public relations and social media, told the New York Times, "It was never our intention to put any bloggers or their guests in an uncomfortable position and for that we are sorry." Moritz said that the Ketchum public relations company tried to stage a hidden-camera ad campaign, feeding off the successes of similar campaigns by Pizza Hut and Domino's.

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