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Sausage makers Heck Food are facing a nationwide boycott after a PR stunt with Boris Johnson – in which the Tory leadership hopeful was helped by Heck staff to create his own “Boris Banger” sausage in front of a hoarde of assembled photographers – backfired catastrophically, with huge swathes of social media users accusing the firm of political bias and vowing never to buy their products again under the hashtag #BoycottHeck.
On Thursday, Johnson took part in a PR stunt at the firm’s kitchens in Yorkshire to promote a new range of Heck sausages made in his honour – named the “Boris Banger”:
— Dave Higgens (@DaveHiggensPA) July 4, 2019
— Nicola Rees (@Nicola_Rees) July 4, 2019
The stunt came despite Heck’s co-owner, Debbie Keeble, declaring before the 2017 General Election that an end to Freedom of Movement – one of Boris Johnson’s key Brexit red lines – would be “cataclysmic” for her business.
Two years ago I dragged my sorry arse to Helmsley in north Yorks to listen to the owners of @HeckFood talk about how disasterous brexit would be for their business and to hear from heartbroken Eastern European employees https://t.co/qKgKVEj1Mg and now this. Pricks with forks etc. https://t.co/M9CrPvgeYj
— Jay Rayner (@jayrayner1) July 7, 2019
Given Johnson’s divisive politics and highly controversial views, Heck’s endorsement of the Tory leadership hopeful created outrage, with many social media users accusing the Yorkshire firm of completely misjudging their customer base and some even predicting it could be the “kiss of death” for the company.
— PenkyMax (@penkymax) July 8, 2019
Following the backlash, Heck have now responded, attempting to claim that they did not “specifically endorse” Mr Johnson:
We’ve seen a lot of people talking about a visit to our factory last week, and we want to make ourselves completely understood. Team HECK x pic.twitter.com/ILx5iutunv
— HECK! (@HeckFood) July 8, 2019
Heck’s claim comes despite them literally creating a sausage in Mr Johnson’s honour:
Now: "We do not specifically endorse any candidate…"
— Chris Shaw (@The_ChrisShaw) July 8, 2019
For full clarity, @HeckFood would like to make themselves 'completely understood'. They do not endorse any candidate. They just made a pack of product with Johnson's name on it, and then let him prance around their kitchen for the cameras. I trust everyone's clear on that. https://t.co/9vwaBFOeYA
— Jay Rayner (@jayrayner1) July 8, 2019
And just when it looked like things couldn’t get worse for the Yorkshire firm, the hashtag #BoycottHeck is now trending at number 2 on Twitter – with huge numbers of social media users pledging never to buy their products again.
— Martin O'Lowery (@martin_lowe) July 8, 2019
You "do not specifically endorse any candidate" rings ridiculously hollow after creating 'Boris Bangers' packaging. This was a gushing photo op not an opportunity for debate. I bought your brand every week. I loved it. No more. #BoycottHeck
— Clare Tyndall (@TyndallClare) July 8, 2019
— PenkyMax (@penkymax) July 8, 2019
Well, what a PR disaster for @HeckFood.
Firstly, complain about the damage Brexit will have on jobs. Then moan about the EU pulling funds for a visitor centre because of Brexit. And then invite Boris to wear your sausages.
Bizarre thinking. Just odd. #BoycottHeck pic.twitter.com/ixlMzGP7hu
— Peter Naldrett (@PeterNaldrett) July 8, 2019
And the uproar hasn’t just been consigned to Twitter, with Heck’s Google review ranking also being severely hit after an influx of furious former customers leaving negative reviews.