Sunday, January 20, 2008

Ruder Finn's Response

I never got any direct response from Ruder Finn, but I checked the link today and they have withdrawn the page. I would have preferred a formal retraction or public apology, but I suppose they ascribe to the school of thought that PR folks never admit a mistake. See for yourself: Since this will just take you to a 404 screen, check out my post on 12/29/07 for a snapshot of what was originally posted at that web address.

Interestingly, a some additional digging revealed that Ruder Finn is, or at least was, the lead PR firm for Twinings in the United States. On Sept 12 2005, it was announced that Ruder Finn was hired by Twinings specifically to tout Twinings' 300th Anniversary (which coincided with the rollout of new packaging, new flavors, and in my opinion, lower quality Earl Grey). Here is an excerpt from a press release:

"Ruder Finn impressed us with their knowledge of the tea market and the creativity of their concepts for such a significant anniversary," said Michael Cobb, marketing director for Twinings North America, Inc. "Their relationships with key media and the team's experience in the food and beverage industry will help increase awareness of Twinings as a leader in the tea arena. In addition, they have excellent experience delivering world-class corporate anniversary programs for a variety of clients."

See PRNewswire for the full press release.

Here is the email I sent to Ruder Finn, for those interested.

From: save twinings <> Mailed-By:
Date: Dec 31, 2007 4:54 PM
Subject: False Statements on your website


I am the owner/writer of a blog entitled Save Twinings ( You reference my blog as a case study on your website, here:

Your case study is incorrect. I have never visited Twinings, though I would be interested in doing so. I have not agreed I was mistaken - I maintain my suspicion that Twinings changed the formula of the tea. Finally, I have not stopped my campaign.

I would appreciate it if you post a correction to your website. If these statements were true, I wouldn't mind you using your work as a case study. They are, however, false, and I oppose the propagation of misinformation by any source, but particularly by public relations and advertising professionals.

thank you,
Save Twinings


  1. Here's an easy test. Do you still have some of the "old" tea kicking around? If so, get someone besides you to make a couple cups with the same amount (measure it) of water, sweetner, and whatever. Get them to use two identical coloured dark cups. Make it a blind taste test where you don't know which is which (and you have no part in making the tea). You could also get some more people to try it who enjoy Earl Grey. See what the results turn up; it might be fuel for your fire.

  2. An update from Italy.

    In December 2006 I noticed the weakness in Twinings' Earl Grey's flavor, in three different boxes of loose leaves. What I did was stop buying it. Then a few months later (might have been August 2007) I decided to buy a new box – I thought that maybe there had been some sort of mistake on Twining's part (after all, they insisted on denying any change in flavor, as you very well witnessed).

    The design of the box was unchanged, and with surprise and delight I found out that the flavor was back. Skip forward a few more months, to early 2008: the same store started selling new boxes, marked "Twinings Classics", with icons (two dark and three light leaves) and a label that reads "Light flavor strength." I thought "Here we go again," so I bought one new box and two old ones.

    I was glad to see (smell, actually) that the newer box weren't as light in flavor as the previous year's bad batch. Actually, I thought they were somewhat stronger, slightly fruitier than the older boxes, but all in all not unpleasant. And definitely better than the bad batch. So, I don't know if there is anything else beside "Light flavour strength," since all boxes say the same thing (including Prince of Wales, English Breakfast and Darjeeling), and I haven't checked Twinings' website.

    I am really starting to think that the loss in flavor of 2006-2007 was due to some sort of mistake in the blend or some quiet experiment gone wrong. I realize that Twinings should have just acknowledged it instead of making faithful tea drinkers sound like fools.

    I am just glad my Earl Grey still (or once again) tastes like Earl Grey.

  3. Don't know if this comment will be read since this blog hasn't been updated for over a year. Anyway, I've drank Twinings Earl Grey every morning for 20 years or so. There has definitely been a change in the recipe. It is simply terrible. Certain tea sites are acknowledging that there have been customer complaints but their reviewers say they can't tell the difference. THERE IS A HUGE DIFFERENCE. For the past 2 years or so the tea has been harsh and not at all fragrant like it used to. Can barely taste the bergamot. It's not just weak tasting or a weaker version, it's outright terrible. Family and friends have voiced similar opinions. In the meantime can anyone recommend another Earl Grey? Have tried that at Upton's Tea and it's good but not like the original Twinings Earl Grey!

  4. Has anyone complained about other Twinings tea? We think the Irish breakfast and English breakfast teas have also been changed.. Taste has definitely deteriorated...