Since the publication of the original post on this topic, reaction has been swift and polarizing. While trying to bring up constructive criticism to a segment of the industry for which issues have been long discussed in private, one of the companies that we reported as an example has seen fit to accuse this blog of making false statements…being that they make all their own products themselves with their own recipes or use a a co-packer to accomplish the same. So, with all journalistic intent, we responded to Pepper Palace with every intent of them providing specific information that would debunk our claim. In fact, this offer was made on more than one occasion, and the conversation went from being on-topic about this most recent post to personal statements about this blog and its place within the hot & spicy food industry. Our conversation has been with Craig Migawa, CEO of Pepper Palace. So that it can be noted what was said, here is much of that conversation which all comes from email conversations not posted in the Comments section of that post:
Pepper Palace: “If you need further information on Pepper Palace, please request it at craigm@pepperpalace.Posting information without being properly informed can jeopardize the integrity of your blog.”
Hot Zone Online: “If there is any dispute with what is written on this blog, we welcome the opportunity to clarify or correct it for the sake of our readers. In fact, we would publish it as a “part 2″ to the most recent posting.
As such, would you be willing to answer a series of questions regarding the manufacturing, creation, and labeling of the Pepper Palace products? This would be done in writing via email to reduce the risk of miscommunication through a phone call. We would then publish the conversation in its entirety as part of the post.”
PP: “Thanks for the offer. However, I would investigate my writings prior to making them public. Your being so terribly misinformed has inspired me to update the “About Us” section at pepperpalace.com. Please advise all your readers to check it out.”
HZO: “In light of your strongly-worded rebuke of the article, one would have thought that you would relish going on the record to give the readers more updated information rather than merely adjusting your website.
There will be a follow up to the article, I’m sure, but along with asking readers to check out an external source for more information, it will have to be noted that you declined the offer to go “on the record” to answer questions to clarify any information, or misinformation, that currently exists.
I know you’re “busy” with your production facilities, including processing all that horseradish, so we’ll not pursue this issue any further. If you change your mind and would like to reconsider providing some information, please do not hesitate to contact us.”
PP: “This blog is the record? Don’t flatter yourself. Include all your advertisers hard production work as well.”
HZO: “Advertisers? You’re kidding, right? The blog is totally non-commercial, and that has always been the case.
The blog is indeed “a” record, and is “the” record in regards to this particular discussion. If the information is wrong, then we gladly offer the opportunity to clarify it for the sake of the readers. Bloggers are not infallible, and what’s published is a mixture of fact and opinion. If the facts are wrong, then all we can do is offer to clarify them with information provided from the source in dispute. We offered that. You refused.
Also, I did go to the website and check the “about us” section. It has not been updated as of this morning, 1/31/2012.”
PP: “Thanks for visiting pepperpalace.com. Please check back for an updated “about us” section soon. Thanks for your time and the opportunity to better inform you. Hired a new Vet today and he is training in our kitchen today so I must leave you now.”
(At this point, the conversation went really south and comments were made that our “attempts to appear legit are boring” and that “our negative approach to this industry will eventually ruin us.” Rather than get into a schoolyard spat of finger-pointing, we summed up with this:)
HZO: “The comments on that post have been turned off. No one else, including you, will be able to publicly comment on it.
This discussion has gone beyond the realm of anything which is even remotely constructive. We are willing to put an entirely separate post online to clarify any misinformation. You have suggested with your comments that what we suggested was true at one time in regard to private labeling, but that is no longer the case. Here is what we would like to know:
1. Are your products currently made in your own facility with your own recipes, made in another facility with your recipes (co-packed,) or are they another company’s products with your label on it?
2. Are any of the products that you submitted, or won awards for, at the most recent Fiery Foods Challenge made by another company yet has the Pepper Palace label on it? That is, are they are not products you produce or are your recipes?
3. You stated this in a comment on the blog: “We sure got our start by having “Other Manufacturers” produce our product! As we began expanding we found it necessary to have our own facility built.” What does that mean? Did other companies co-pack for you or were those products private-labeled with your Pepper Palace labels? Many companies go to a co-packer because they themselves cannot keep up with the production at their own facility. What you are suggesting is that the reverse was the case…that your manufacturer was unable to keep up with your demand, so you built a facility to exceed what THEY could produce. Correct?
Please try to answer these 3 questions in as much detail as you can. Doing so can only benefit your business if you prove that you are right and we are wrong. If you refuse to offer information to refute our statements, you cannot claim that we are being libelous in any way with our assertions. If you choose not to answer these questions, and to refute this issue specifically, then our conversation with you is at an end.”
As of the posting time of this current article, Pepper Palace has declined to answer our questions…or do anything else besides insult us. We are not inclined to believe that they intend to do so in the future, either.
Despite a very carefully constructed comment in the original post by Craig Migawa of Pepper Palace, what seems clear at this point is that they are not terribly interested in answering the pertinent questions that would change our original statement about their products, especially in regards to what was entered in the most recent Fiery Foods Challenge. It also seems obvious that Craig has no idea about the fact that this blog is, and has always been, non-commercial. We don’t make, or take, money from anyone having to do with writing any posts or advertising or reviewing. One would think that the “Ad-free” logo on the right sidebar would help illustrate that, but who are we to decide who is observant enough to look at that?