Last week, Australian movie theater chain Event Cinemas launched its annual “My Choc Top” competition, where contestants were encouraged to submit their own versions of the popular Australian ice cream cone online. A handful of participants created their customized ice cream flavors—chosen from an array of base and topping options listed online, which did not mention the ingredients—and attached the word “vegan” to the name of the resulting product. The contest rules stated that three finalists would have their ice cream combinations showcased at participating theater locations on February 27, and the finalist with the highest-selling one would win a year’s supply of their flavor. Participant Cassandra Toohey’s “Classic Vegan Choc Top” was the top entry—with nearly 3,000 votes—amongst a leaderboard populated with 10 vegan-named entries. Upon learning of the phenomenon, and despite contest rules making no mention of precluding dairy-free entries, the company contacted participants to inform them that their entries would be changed to remove the word “vegan.” Disappointed Australians took to Event Cinemas’ social media pages to express their disdain over what many said was a violation of their freedom of speech. “Since you’ve removed the vegan options, can I remove my votes?,” participant Tash McKenzie asked on Facebook, continuing, “I don’t wish to contribute to more unnecessary dairy consumption.” While the dairy industry in Australia has experienced a slump in recent years, the country’s interest in veganism is booming, as evidenced by the opening of multiple vegan eateries (including ice cream and gelato shops), and a recent Google trends report revealing that “vegan” was the most searched dietary term across the continent in 2016. “This situation shows how out of touch the company is with consumer demand for vegan products,” Australian-based consulting company Vegan Business Media founder Katrina Fox tells VegNews. “They had an opportunity to position themselves as innovative and progressive.”
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