Tsingtao’s Urinating Man Presents Crisis

Thom Weidlich 10.26.23


Tsingtao Brewery, China’s second-biggest beer maker, was hit with a crisis Oct. 19 with the, uh, leaking of video appearing to show an employee urinating into a tank of raw ingredients. The company responded well, hitting some important crisis-communications notes.

The man was shown on camera at the beer factory in Pingdu City climbing over a wall and into a container of malt and then appearing to urinate in it (Tsingtao hasn’t confirmed he is an employee). The video reportedly has tens of millions of views on Weibo, the popular social-media site in China. As you can imagine, Tsingtao is being ridiculed.

On Oct. 20, it released a statement that said, according to Agence France-Presse, “Our company attaches high importance to the relevant video that emerged from Tsingtao Brewery No. 3 on Oct. 19. We reported the incident to the police at the earliest opportunity, and public security organs are involved in the investigation.”

Malt Batch

It went on: “At present, the batch of malt in question has been completely sealed. The company continues to strengthen its management procedures and ensure product quality.” It said its manufacturing was operating as normal.

With that simple statement, Tsingtao did a lot of right things: It expressed concern, conveyed what it did about the situation (sealed off the batch, changed procedures) and promised more developments through the ongoing investigation. This is a type of oddball crisis that’s hard to prevent. Yet, Tsingtao responded well by showing it took action, including reporting the incident to authorities.

The company is wise to take the crisis seriously. With the millions of views have come many consumer comments, both negative and positive. On Monday, Tsingtao’s shares fell sharply on the Shanghai Stock Exchange, but then recovered in intraday trading.

Police Custody

According to the New York Post, citing China’s government-owned National Business Daily, both the man who appeared to urinate and the person who filmed him were in police custody. Most reporting has danced around the issue of whether the alleged primary offender is a company employee. The Post (again citing the Chinese outlet) said he may have been an “external hire.”

It’s not unusual for food companies to face crises involving workers contaminating the product. For example, in 2019, a contract worker at a Kellogg’s plant in Memphis was sentenced to prison for urinating on a conveyer belt carrying cereal. As we say, it’s a type of crisis hard to prevent, but companies should respond in a way that shows they understand that consumers may have strong reactions.

Photo Credit: monticello/Shutterstock

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