On 26th October 2014, the Hindu Council UK received communication from Punam Chopra, requesting our assistance. Punam wrote:
“As part of Sainsbury’s Diwali Campaign they were promoting ‘Haribo sweets’ which in fact contain beef gelatine. There is signage in stores (photo attached) wishing customers a Happy Diwali and endorsing halal Haribo sweets as Diwali snacks!!! – This shows Sainsbury’s cheap promotion tactics to gain market share and their utter disregard for Hindus. When I saw this promotion, I was concerned and I spoke to the Manager at the Sainsbury’s Harrow Store. He did not seem particularly sorry or understand how appalling this was. Instead, he kept stating that the Hindu employees at the store had not complained and over 20 000 customers had bought these products and not complained. I highlighted to him that his staff would not be reading the small print on the back of products but would simply be putting the stock out on the shelves as part of their job. Secondly customers would have placed their trust in Sainsbury’s who, if advertising these products as part of their Diwali promotion, would have taken the care to ensure they were suitable for Hindus. Furthermore, Diwali is predominantly a Hindu festival and not a Muslim festival, so I am unclear why they are promoting ‘halal products’ as part of their Diwali Campaign. I am sure you will agree this is simply not acceptable and should be taken up at the highest level. I would respectfully ask that Hindu Council UK consider taking this forward with Sainsbury’s”
In response to the communication, from Punam Chopra, Hindu Council UK’s Director of Equality & Human Rights-Dipen Rajyaguru and Director/Secretary General-Sanjay Jagatia wrote to the Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s:
Dear Mr Coupe
I write to you on behalf of the Hindu Council UK (HCUK).
HCUK has received many communications from members of the Hindu Community in the UK, with regards to concerns about products which were sold at your stores as part of your “Diwali Promotion”.
Please see letter attached which details all the concerns.
I would be very grateful if you could confirm successful receipt of the email and the attached letter.
I look forward to your urgent reply on this matter.
With kind regards,
Hindu Council UK (HCUK)
Letter to: Mike Coupe, Chief Executive Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd:
By Email: Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 5:05 PM
Dear Mr Coupe,
Hindu Council UK (HCUK) is the oldest and largest umbrella organisations for the Hindu Community in the UK and is one of the main consultative & advisory bodies on all matters relating to the British Hindu community, culture and religion and regularly interacts with the Government and Statutory Departments. HCUK also advises and consults on matters relating to interfaith dialogue and community consultations and advises and challenges legislation and policies that may affect the Hindu Community in the UK. Hinduism is the oldest practiced religion in the world with over a 1 billion following worldwide.
It has come to our attention that Sainsbury’s is being extremely insensitive and very ignorant in your ‘Diwali promotions’ through promoting Beef Gelatine produce (Haribo sweets) as part of the celebrations. Beef consumption is strictly prohibited in Hinduism just as Pork is prohibited in Judaism and Islam.
In addition, it is obvious that that by labelling them as ‘halal’ (Islamic food standard) that it may not be suitable for Hindu’s and certainly not specific to Hindu belief. These are all very basic and fundamental that it could hardly be ‘overlooked’, with your CR and Diversity statements. I am certain your legal team will agree.
The Hindu Council UK is very disappointed that such ignorance is prevalent is Sainsbury’s with such a large Hindu consumer and staff base. Hindus are extremely tolerant and abundantly respectful of other beliefs (religious or otherwise) and there should not be any ‘shifting of blame’ to Hindu’s if we often give the ‘benefit of the doubt’.
However, we feel quite justified in this instance to raise this concern with you as we feel that ‘Hindu’s have been less favourably treated than other religions and beliefs’ as defined by the Equality Act 2010.
We demand that Sainsbury’s remove that particular promotion with a national apology and investigate how such discrimination could occur. As stated Hindu’s are very tolerant, we could have pursued this issue by other detrimental means but as a gesture of our ‘goodwill’ and our religious obligation; we want to help Sainsbury’s face and reduce your ignorance and would be happy to discuss this with you further.
Mr Dipen Rajyaguru
Director for Equality & Human Rights
Hindu Council UK (HCUK)
c.c: Sanjay Jagatia, Director/Secretary General-Hindu Council UK
Response received from: James Bailey, Director of Packaged Food Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd:
By Email: Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 4:55 PM
Dear Mr Rajyaguru
Thank you for the email you sent Mike Coupe yesterday, raising your concerns about our Diwali promotion, and for giving us the opportunity to sincerely apologise to you directly. Mike is on holiday this week and will see your email on his return. In the meantime, as the director responsible for World Foods at Sainsbury’s, I am responding on his behalf.
We run a Diwali promotion every year, designed to showcase the products we sell to help customers celebrate this important festival. On this occasion we got it wrong on two counts â€“ by highlighting sweets for Diwali that contain beef gelatine, and then again by promoting them as Halal. All this promotional material has been removed from display in our stores and will be deleted from our website overnight.
Please let me reassure you that this was a genuine mistake on our part and not intended to be insensitive or discriminatory in any way. Our Hindu customers are very important to us and we certainly didn’t intend to cause any offence to them, or to the wider Hindu community.
We very much welcome your offer of future discussion and we will contact you shortly to set up a meeting.
Thank you again for raising your concerns with Mike and rest assured we will make every effort to ensure this kind of mistake never happens again.
James Bailey | Director of Packaged Food
Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd | 33 Holborn, London | EC1N 2HT
James.Bailey@sainsburys.co.uk | 020 7695 3125