Is Magnum ice-cream fueling class war?

Katherine Visconti
Is Magnum ice-cream fueling class warfare or just a viral joke?

MANILA, Philippines – Did investigative journalists find top secret documents revealing that Magnum ice cream was purposely overpriced?

Are the people rising up against their urban overlords, demanding fair treatment in the form of fair ice cream prices for all?

Or, rather insidiously, has a foreign ice cream presence been planted in the Philippines to spark internal unrest?

The answer to all 3 is a resounding no.

PROTEST? Screenshot of photo from So What's News article.

As absurd as those claims sound, a few people actually believed the hoax article “Unilever Asked to Rollback Prices of Magnum After it was Discovered to be Overpriced.”

Hosted on the satirical wordpress blog ‘So, What’s News?’ the article joked that consumers were up in arms outside the ice cream maker’s office, since ordinary citizens couldn’t afford to buy the treat, especially after the recent hike in Jeepney fares.

Operated as a joint venture between RFM Foods Corporation and Unilever, with the majority share held by Unilever, Magnum ice cream is in the premium price bracket. At sometimes over P50 a bar in local convenience stores, Magnum is nearly 2x the price of a Cornetto, another Selecta product, and at least 2.5x the price of local staples like Pinipig and Double Popsicle.

“Consumers cannot justify a P50 price tag when jeepney fares have increased by 50 centavos,” was the supposed quote of  Department of Trade & Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo who was reportedly heading the charge against the ice-cream to protect consumers.

But his hands were apparently tied by the dreaded anti-consumer Ice Cream Deregulation Law (RA 8479-M). Some may have thought that in such a hot country, the ice cream lobby was understandably very strong.

The secret documents investigating Unilever were perhaps the most laughable part of the article. Though the suggested retail price (SRP) was meant to be P14.75 the article said the company settled on a higher entry point of P50 to make the glorified Pinipig seem more special.

It would be 10% ice cream and 90% status symbol.

ELITE TREAT. Some social media users have complained about the high cost of Magnum. Screenshot from So What's News?

Comments under the article quickly pointed out it was a joke to those who were confused or rallying behind the price change.

Nikki Abella, the PR Manager of Unilever Philippines, didn’t take the joke seriously. When asked about it, she replied, “We don’t need to react because its not true.”
Viral ice cream

The blog post is yet another sign of how viral the ice cream has become in the Philippines.

With the help of brand ambassadors like actress Solenn Heussaff who has over half a million twitter followers, 512,577, Magnum has trended at least twice. According to Yahoo, Magnum was the search engine’s 4th top trending topic on March 15th.

SEX SELLS. The sneak peak of Rogue's sexy spread on Heussaff wearing a suggestive chocolate-esque covering makes rounds on Twitter on March 27.

Among the brand ambassadors are massively popular tweeters including: celebrity stylist Liz Uy (539,000+ followers), TV host Raymond Gutierrez (462,000+ followers), Chef Erwann Heussaff (186,000+ followers) and columnist-socialite Tessa Prieto-Valdes (30,000+ followers).

Spreading by word of social media

Magnum launched in the Philippines on February 28, just in time for the sweltering hot summer.

Yet even before putting up traditional media ads in March, the belgian chocolate dipped ice-cream had sold out in some convenience stores.

Filipinos spread the word themselves, through tweets and even pictures on Instagram.

The craze has some on Twitter complaining about the attention the ice-cream is getting, relative to serious issues that should concern Filipinos.

With a hot summer stretching ahead, the ferver online is likely far from over.

Some social media users are already saying the ice cream debate has been blown out of proportion. Eric Patrick Mercado tweeted, “It’s just ice cream.”


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