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Can the clean eating industry dispel its dirty reputation?

Did you catch Clean Eating – The Dirty Truth on BBC Two last week?

We found the documentary absolutely fascinating, not least because the clean eating trend has experienced such an extraordinary growth over recent years, but also because it was certainly food for thought from a PR perspective.

At its core, PR is essentially built upon reputation management. Usually this means managing the reputation of brands, businesses and people – not a trend or an industry. However, the clean eating trend, and therefore those involved in it, could certainly do with some top notch PR advice when it comes to shaking off the recent controversies.

It all began so well – with advocates of eating clean, such as Deliciously Ella and the Hemsley sisters, flying the flag for a clean eating lifestyle (note: clean is typically defined as eating whole foods, or ‘real’ foods – those that are minimally processed, refined and handled). What began as innocent blogs and amateur YouTube videos quickly spiralled into a multi-million pound industry, with ingredients such as kale, quinoa and almond butter flying off the supermarket shelves faster than you can say #avotoast.

So, where did it all go so terribly wrong? Back in July, we watched a documentary exploring the trend, called Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets. You can read more about it in this blog post (which quickly became the second most read blog on our website). This original documentary saw vlogger Grace Victory investigating why more and more people are choosing to cut out gluten, sugar, dairy and meat in the name of eating clean.

The writing was on the wall for the trend’s downward spiral when Grace contacted a number of popular wellness bloggers and vloggers to give their side of the story, but only one came forward – Natasha Corrett, of Honestly Healthy fame.

Natasha’s bravery for agreeing to the interview should certainly be commended, as the rest appeared to simply hide behind their spiralizers. But the problem was that when any questions about controversial issues within the trend were brought up, Natasha refused to answer them – therefore potentially introducing an element of doubt when it comes to her brand’s messages and positioning, and perhaps leaving her loyal followers wondering why those questions couldn’t be answered.

During last night’s programme, presenter Dr Giles Yeo managed to pin down an interview with Ella Mills (formerly Woodward) – the Instagram sensation behind Deliciously Ella, and undoubtedly the sweet potato brownie eating, kale juice drinking poster girl for clean eating.

Ella handled Dr Yeo’s questioning well, and acknowledged that the movement has lost its way, commenting that “Clean now implies dirty and that’s negative. I haven’t used it, but as far as I understood it when I first read the term, it meant natural, kind of unprocessed, and now it doesn’t mean that at all. It means diet, it means fad.”

We have to say that our favourite answer to the clean eating debate has to be from the Poldark lookalike King of Hiit and ‘midget trees’ – Joe Wicks. In a recent interview with the Guardian, Joe simply shrugged and said “The whole clean-eating thing, I don’t even understand it! I’ve just had bangers and mash, don’t mean I’m dirty.” Mr Lean in 15 is undoubtedly PR savvy, and he probably knows that distancing himself from the contentious trend is the best stance to take.

But what next for clean eating? It’ll certainly be interesting to see which brands will remain as staunch supporters, and which ones will steer clear of the phrase which has earned itself 27 million+ hashtags on Instagram.

If you want to keep up-to-date with all the Bloomin’ Creative PR news and views, follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@BloominCreative) and Facebook (@BloominCreativePR).

If you need some advice about crisis management and how to handle your brand’s reputation from a PR perspective, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us here or email to arrange a free consultation – we promise we’ll never try to make you drink a kale smoothie.

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