Savvy investors might have caught the plight of the Australian Baking Company in today’s news. ABC, as the company is generally known, has an exclusive contract with the federal government to supply cakes to the defence forces. It employs over one hundred pastry cooks, all members of the Australian Cooks’ Trade Union (ACTU).
Complaints have been pouring in from members of the defence forces about the quality of the cakes coming out of ABC. “They are bitter and misshapen” is a common charge. “The icing is almost always red and insipid”, one NCO was quoted as saying.
“We march from the early hours for Australia and look forward to a mid-morning cup of tea and cake,” hge continued. “It is so dreadfully disappointing. It just won’t do.” Other comments have been more colourful and bit too tasty for publication.
To stem the reputational damage that these complaints are causing, ABC called a press conference this morning fronted by its Managing Director and Baker-In -Chief Henry Weasel and by a union-appointed staff spokeswoman Clara Zetkin. Highlights of the press conference are covered below.
“We won’t apologise to anyone for the quality of our cakes”, Ms Zetkin said. “Our cakes go through the most thorough internal testing. Each cook is personally challenged about the quality of their cakes and no fault is ever admitted.
“Okay, some people think that too much red icing is used, but others think it’s underdone. What more evidence is needed to show that we have it about right”, Ms Zetkin added.
She also cited the existence of gossip, rumours, unconfirmed reports and allegations that some members of the defence forces had sabotaged numbers of cakes by throwing them into their bathwater or by burning them in microwave ovens.
When challenged to produce evidence of this sabotage Mr Weasel admitted there was no evidence at all but said that it could have happened.
He was asked whether ABC should make it clear that those making these charges might have an interest in damaging the reputation of the defence forces and whether an apology was in order.
“Perhaps, on reflection, we could parse our words a little differently”, he said. “But remember we don’t say that sabotage has taken place, only that some people have said that it has. As to an apology, we earnestly believe that admitting the possibility that things might have been handled more delicately always strikes the right balance in every circumstance.”
Mr Weasel was asked directly whether he intended to take action to improve the quality of ABC cakes.
“It is not up to me to interfere with the work of our cooks. But let me say that they have my full and complete confidence. They are all quite excellent cooks and beyond reproach in their attention to the balance of ingredients in each and every cake.”
“At the same time we are a responsive company and take all complaints extremely seriously. To show how serious we are we intend to appoint a PR consultant to improve our relationship with the defence forces. His, or of course her job as the case may be – and in parenthesis I would add that we will be scrupulously even-handed and equal-opportunity focussed in our choice of consultant – will be to convince them that our cakes are truly delicious whatever their taste buds tell them.”
Despite the efforts by the company to limit the damage to its reputation ABC shares fell further into the doldrums during the trading day. We reaffirm our call: avoid at all costs.