The company faced a backlash through Facebook, Twitter and emailed comments after a number of people picked up on a message in some of its 'Mis-fortune' Cookies "you will marry a transgender".
"We like to be irreverent and cheeky, and most of the time we think we get it right," Hell co-founder Stu McMullin says in a just-released statement.
"On this occasion we experienced a sense of humour failure. We have caused offense, and contributed to the bigotry that hurts LGBT people all over the world every day, and we regret this," he continues.
McMullin says the particular cookie message
was one of 60 different ‚Äėmis-fortunes‚Äô offered to Hell customers. "They
have been popular with customers and were intended to be amusing and
provocative to people in all walks of life. This one particular message has
upset some of our customers and we will rewrite the slogan for our next batch
Earlier Auckland-based trans support and advocacy group GenderBridge joined those slamming the message in the cookie, with Chair Jamie Veale pointing out the joke played on transphobia by drawing on offensive representations of transgender people as 'freaks' who are undesirable.
"This collateral appears to irresponsibly draw on popular media stereotypes of transgendered women as being either unattractive or deceptive. It relies on public fear of transgendered women for humour," she says.
"GenderBridge believes it is deeply socially irresponsible to promote this attitude toward transgendered people who already struggle with discrimination. You may be surprised to know that in 2011 there were 221 deaths globally related to hate or bias on the basis on gender identity. The effects of ignorance and prejudice are no laughing matter given the tragic consequences it holds for our community."
In an open letter, GenderBridge asked Hell Pizza how its fortune cookie message came to be incorporated into itsadvertising campaign without consideration of the impact of this for the transgender community.