KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 30 — Faced with an unrelenting online campaign calling for the boycott of its products, Gardenia Bakeries (KL) Sdn Bhd today took out advertorials in English dailies refuting claims that it is a “crony company”.
The breadmaker also denied charges it had been directed by Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas), which has a 30 per cent stake in Gardenia, to stop buying flour from Federal Flour Mills Bhd (FFM) for allegedly racist reasons.
Bernas is owned by Tan Sri Syed Mohktar Al-Bukhary, while FFM is controlled by Hong Kong-based Malaysian tycoon Tan Sri Robert Kuok.
“We buy flour from Malayan Flour Mills Bhd and Prestasi Flour Mills Sdn Bhd purely due to commercial reasons,” Gardenia said in its full-page advertorial.
“In fact, Bernas has a stake in Y flour mill and yet we have never been directed or coerced to buy flour from it. This speaks volumes on the professionalism of the Bernas management.”
The market leader in bread said it was “everything a good Malaysian company should be”, stressing that it employed highly professional and ethical people regardless of race or religion.
Gardenia pointed out it has supported many community projects and activities since 1992 and was currently providing over 60 shelter homes with free fresh bread products daily, again without care for race or religion.
The company claimed the campaign was the result of its success in providing high-quality products every day “come rain or shine”, an achievement which has stirred envy in competitors.
“This envy has resulted in the circulation of many malicious rumours and falsehoods. However, now, underhanded tactics with racial and political overtones have been used.
“We all should not be party to this exploitation and manipulation to serve some narrow agenda,” it said.
A spokesman for Gardenia said a Malay version of the advertorial would appear in Malay-language papers tomorrow.
The anti-Gardenia campaign, conducted online and mainly in Chinese, began a month ago, calling for a boycott of the breadmaker for allegedly discriminating against Kuok’s FFM on racial grounds.
The campaign also urged consumers to support rival bread brand Massimo, produced by FFM, which entered the market recently.
One email read: “Let’s support the new Massimo bread by Robert Kuok and boycott Gardenia bread owned by Umno crony, Syed Mokhtar Albukhary’s Tradewind group.”
FFM, however, denied it was behind the Gardenia boycott campaign in a full-page advertorial in The Star today.
“It has come to our notice that there are articles circulating in various media that have urged consumers to prefer our product against that of our competitor,” it read.
“FFM Berhad wishes to categorically distance itself from these articles and would like to stress that we are in no way responsible for these articles nor do we endorse the articles nor the attendant publicity.”
Gardenia had earlier sought help from DAP organising secretary Teresa Kok, who called the campaign “extremely racist and not acceptable”.
The Seputeh MP said the public should not forward messages without first verifying the information contained within them first.