Costco is kind of the place made for a pandemic. Where else can you buy a pallet of seltzer water, a garbage truck’s worth of toilet paper, and 5,000 cans of beans all in one run? Is that overstating the bulk shopping store’s actual per-unit limits? Probably, but it doesn’t feel like by much. And while Costco may have had a good year of earnings, they are in a bit of hot water with recent news they’ve pulled a product because of possible animal cruelty.
The issue comes from products produced by Theppadungporn Coconut Co. which makes, among other things, Chaokoh coconut milk. PETA investigators found evidence that the company was using monkeys as part of their labor force. Reports say they were chained and used to pick coconuts as part of the harvesting process. This was just one of the allegations made against the company related to the monkeys’ treatment. Other disturbing allegations included caging and torturing the primates. Costco, upon hearing about the abuse, was quick to yank Chaokoh products off their shelf.
Besides this animal abuse snafu, Costco is having quite the financial year. The company reported net sales of over $163 billion for the fiscal year which accounted for more than a 9% increase over 2019. The coronavirus pandemic played a major part in this growth seeing as how folks were more inclined to “stock up” on essentials and Costco’s business model aligned perfectly with the need. Additionally, their club card sales rose 14% during this time as well. And take it from a guy who made more than his share of summertime Costco runs, it’s easy to see how the company had a massive year. Those lines were really something else.
That being said, this isn’t the first time Costco chose to pull something off the shelves this year because of a controversy. In September, Costco stopped selling Palmetto cheese after the latter’s founder, Brian Henry, made disparaging remarks on Facebook about the Black Lives Matter movement. Though he ultimately apologized for his comments, Costco didn’t reverse course and the cheese still isn’t on shelves.
PETA has been urging consumers and retailers to avoid Chaokoh products with Costco apparently the first US-based company to actually make the move to take the milk off shelves. They’ve detailed the disturbing accusations through a series of videos of the monkeys trapped in cages, beaten, and even made to perform like circus animals. According to PETA, more than 25,000 stores in Asia have already removed Chaokoh from their distribution chains. They are pleading for US-based grocers to do the same.
And according to the original report, Costco probably won’t be the last to stop dealing with this company. Representatives from Walmart say they’ve reached out to the suppliers to determine if the allegations are true. It stands to reason, considering the momentum around the reports and with another massive chain already taking action, this isn’t where things stop. Expect to see most major grocery chains follow suit and take the Chaokoh products out of the mix.