AI generated fruit

Daily Harvest Needs To Be a Lesson for All Startups

February 13, 2024

Have you stuck to your New Year’s resolutions? I didn’t make any this year. Instead, I built a plan that will build on small changes throughout the year. January has been a focus on slowing down. But even with my change of thought, it was pretty hard to ignore the barrage of ads about weight loss, healthy new year, new start etc. One that has caught my eye has been Daily Harvest. 

You remember them? The frozen meal kit service that focused on Instagrammable fruit-and-vegetable smoothies? You couldn’t go on social media for a while in the early 2020s without seeing them. At one point the company had a valuation of $1.1 billion.  But, in 2022 they basically fell off the map. Did you wonder why like I did? 

Well, it turns out that Daily Harvest made a lot of people sick in the spring of 2022 — really sick. The list included the very influencers that the company courted and they were very public about their very real illnesses. They were also very critical of the company’s response, which was deemed too late and too little.  

The company is making a comeback. You can now buy their products in Kroger, although I won’t be partaking. They have invested heavily in PR, influencers, and social media, where they were the star. But the stigma of the crisis remains. 

And what a crisis it was — one that a corporate darling like Daily Harvest didn’t see coming, ignored when it happened, and handled badly. Let me be clear, the crisis here is first and foremost, a public health crisis. No brand protection comes before people’s well being. 

But the same efforts that would have helped those impacted, would have gone a long way to protecting the Daily Harvest brand. According to accounts, calls for a recall weren’t heeded, investigations weren’t launched, and victims were offered refunds while they laid in hospital beds recovering from the illness caused by their products. 

Their brand of being pure and healthy had courted people that deeply believe in that lifestyle. They actually live it. By making those people sick, the exact opposite of what you were supposed to do, you have broken their trust. And trust is hard to win back.

This is such horrible story that you needed all of this background for me to simply say this:


I understand that when you have created a start up that is everyone’s darling and you are growing exponentially, the idea of thinking something could go wrong is so far from your mind. Who wants to think of a cloudy day when it is so sunny? 

You are also confident. You have to believe in what you are creating, that’s the first rule. So nothing will go wrong. 

I can tell you all of that is false. 

Part of your growth strategy should be planning for a crisis. Because, as the Daily Harvest crisis demonstrated, a crisis of product becomes a debilitating crisis of reputation that you might not be so lucky to recover from. 

Here are three quick tips:

1. Align your brand, your value, and your actions.

You know who you are cultivating as a customer base and that is reflected in your brand, which hopefully is reflected in your company values. Is all of that reflected in how you run your company? The way you operate your business, from who you use as suppliers to your board to your policies about family leave, need to reflect all of the above

2. Think about what can go wrong and take actions to mitigate the problem.

As I said, you don’t want to think about what could go wrong. You just want to celebrate success. But, as you grow you want to know where the pitfalls are so you can avoid them. And if they can’t be avoided, make them hurt less. Make a list of potential issues to spot by consulting with your stakeholders – all of them – and then figure out what you are going to do about it.  You can’t name all your stakeholders? That’s step one. 

3. Practice what you will do, know who you will call, and find out what you’ll need in the event of a crisis. 

The single, most important ingredient to great crisis mitigation and response is speed. By having the people, policies, and procedures in place beforehand you won’t be searching for your insurance policy to see if you have ransomware coverage in real time. You’ll know and be able to act accordingly. 

There are also people to help. Make crisis experts part of your circle. You won’t regret it. 

Need help? Kith facilitates crisis preparedness workshops that will help your company attain the clarity, trust and speed you need to respond confidently – no dithering! – to any crisis. We’d be happy to have a conversation about how we can help your company be ready to chart an effective course to reputation protection. Is your business ready to handle a crisis? Take our Crisis-Proof Your Business assessment and gain valuable insights to prepare your business for any crisis. 

Stephanie Craig

Stephanie Craig has built her reputation as a crisis expert by guiding some of the world’s most prominent people and organizations through their most trying moments. Before Kith, Stephanie founded the Apeiron Strategy Group where she counted former First Lady Rosalynn Carter and the mayor of the nation’s 10th largest city as clients.