What is in a brand?

The topic of brands is a hot discussion point within the agricultural industry, especially among red meat producers facing a different set of rules than producers of fruit and vegetables.  What exactly is this story behind brands, quality indication marks and geographical indicators within the lamb and mutton industry?  Let’s have a chat about this, exchange a bit of information and gain a fresh perspective on the role of Lamb and Mutton SA within this milieu.

What is in a brand?

We’ve been taught that it is not nice to have favourites, but we all have our preferred dishwashing liquid, milk, toothpaste, coffee and even dog food.  Without thinking about it, we fill our shopping trollies with our preferred and favourite items, but have you ever wondered why you choose one type of dishwashing liquid rather than another?  Is it because your mother and grandmother used that emerald green soap, or because of the name and brand on the bottle?  This brings us to a very important question - what is (in) a brand?

Brands are designed in such a way to be able to communicate various types of information to consumers who want to make a decision.  Brands are considered to be signals of quality which are on average higher and have lower variation in quality.  The appearance and design of branded products are a cut above and transmit a prestigious social image.  When a consumer buys a famous brand, the uncertainty, and anxiety which is generated from thoughts that there is a possibility that they are making a wrong decision, is reduced.  The more a brand does to establish certainty, trust and positive brand equity, the more valuable it will become to consumers (especially those who cannot or don’t want to spend time on pre-purchase research).  In other words, brands tend to do the think work for us, because we have already decided to trust and believe in everything the brand represents. 

 Photo: Freepik

Photo: Freepik

After extensive literature research it is clear that there is significant value in a brand which has established a good reputation and sustainable quality, but is this true for fresh food products?  The purchase decision approach for fresh food products are slightly different than that of non-perishable items.  The quality of a fresh product can, to some extent, be determined through our senses – look, touch, smell and taste.  Through this process of inspection and evaluation our uncertainties can be reduced or eliminated.  This, however, is not always the case for fresh meat, leading to the point where consumers may argue that there needs to be some form of quality indication on the packaging of fresh meat products. 

Brands convey some form of prestige.  By choosing a particular electronic brand, for example, the consumer wishes to be associated with the quality elements of prestige the brand guarantees to offer.  Prestige is much easier to achieve through clothing and as mentioned, electronic brands, for the mere fact that the chosen prestige is visible to other consumers.  Studies have shown that brands of food products are possibly the least valuable source of prestige.  Only the consumer buying and or consuming the food item(s) will observe and appreciate the full extent of the prestige which is conveyed by the particular food brand.  After conducting consumer surveys, researchers found that fresh produce brands contributed the least to product value.  Furthermore, because fresh food products face a greater uncertainty in the production process, it becomes harder to maintain a predefined standard of quality and design.  The possibility of repurchase by consumers will most certainly be reduced if a brand is inconsistent concerning quality.  Inconsistency generates adverse word of mouth and undermines the investment in the brand.  When we take a look at the South African fresh produce industry, there are only a few successful brands which stands out.  Tru-Cape apples and pears is an example of such a well-known brand.  This brand gives smaller producers the opportunity to produce and supply their produce under the Tru-Cape brand, as smaller producers do not always have the financial capacity to build and establish a brand.

 Photo: www.emaze.com/butcher

Photo: www.emaze.com/butcher

In conversation with Mr Rudi van der Westhuizen from the South African Meat Industry Company (SAMIC), it was highlighted that, according to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ (DAFF) Government Notice no. R.55 of 30 January 2015, fresh meat can only be marketed under “Quality indications” and may not be referred to as brands.  The official definition is as follows:

“Quality indication: A word or expression or brand name or trade mark or any other mark or symbol that may directly or by implication influence the choice of the buyer in buying that specific meat, that has been approved by the executive officer on written request for use in a roller-mark and/or as a stamp on the carcasses and/or as an indication on meat or on packaging thereof.”

Currently there are 32 quality indications registered with, and audited by SAMIC.  Each of these quality indications have a set criteria to which each production process must adhere to for the final product to be marketed and distributed under a specific quality indication mark.  The registered quality indication marks for South African lamb and mutton are as follows:

Certified Karoo Meat of Origin

Checkers Certified Natural lamb

Gesogte Laingsburg Karoo Lam/ Famous Laingsburg KarooLamb

HHB Free Range

Karoo Naturally Free

Pick n Pay Free Range

Woolworths Free Range

Fresh by Nature

Cavalier Grassfed Lamb

SAFAM (South African Farm Assured Meat)

Each one of these quality indication marks refers to a set of unique characteristic of each product for a niche market.  Making use of quality indication marks is completely voluntary and the marketing responsibility of each mark lies with the organisation, producer or retail group that registered the mark.  Marketing information of lamb and mutton produced under a specific quality indication mark would typically communicate information about the unique characteristics of the meat, traceability and origin.  More information about the quality indication marks can be found on SAMICS’ website at: www.samic.co.za

 Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

I consulted Prof JF Kirsten (key role player – Certified Karoo meat of Origin) about the value of quality indication marks.  According to him quality indication marks communicates a specific message with regard to moral and ethical norms, and production practices but could easily be misused by for example stating (without verification) that a product is ‘free-range’ while it actually stood in a feedlot.  With the recent drought one cannot help but wonder how many of the meat products marketed as ‘free-range’ was actually veld reared.

“Geographical Indicators” (GI) are also included in the pool of quality indication marks registered with SAMIC and audited by them.  GIs are food products with unique inherent characteristics which are obtained from the region in which it is grown, produced or reared.  These characteristics can be due to the production method use, the ecology of the region, plant species that only grow in certain areas, cultural traditions or representative animal breeds from a region.  Brands and GIs are both types of intellectual property (IP).  Prof Kirsten explained that the only difference between these IPs is that brands are the property of a legal entity i.e. company or an individual, while a GI actually refers to the IP which belongs to the region of origin.  So, for example, nobody can own the name ‘Karoo’ or ‘Laingsburg’ and therefore legislation is needed to protect these rights.

In the case of GI food products, there are no reference to the producers of these products.  All of the attention is focused on the region wherein production occurs and the quality characteristics the product adopts as a result of the region.  Any producers situated within such a region which adheres to, and respects the specification of the GI are permitted to use it.  Popular examples of GI products include Bordeaux wines, Rochefort cheese, Parma ham, Rooibos tea from the Cederberg region, and Karoo Lamb.  GIs are not the property of any person or industry, and can under no circumstances be considered or referred to as a brand.

 Photo: Lamb and Mutton SA

Photo: Lamb and Mutton SA

Lamb and Mutton South Africa: Generic lamb and mutton consumer education.

According to Lamb and Mutton SA’s mandate from the National Agriculture Marketing Council, it is our responsibility to manage consumer education about generic South African lamb and mutton.  The term ‘generic’ is used as an umbrella term to include all sheep meat produced within the borders of South Africa.  Consumer education also differs from traditional marketing techniques in the way in which communication occurs with and to consumers.  Marketing is concerned with sweet and short messages that motivates consumers to buy a product.  Consumer education goes beyond the measures of marketing in terms of the nature and volume of direct information communicated to consumers.  The goal of consumer education is to equip consumers with unbiased information about all South African lamb and mutton so that they can make informed purchase decisions.  In support of this goal, all communication from Lamb and Mutton SA include information about the purchase, use and advantages of lamb and mutton produced in South Africa.  Health and nutrition messages distributed are based on the latest scientific research from experts, including Dr Ina van Heerden from the Agricultural Research Council.  We aim to create opportunities to expand consumer education as well as marketing prospects for quality indication marks.  For more information please visit www.cookingwithlamb.com and like our page Healthy Meat – by Lamb and Mutton SA on Facebook

So you didn’t grow up on a farm, the coffee table in your parents’ house never sported a “Lanbouweekblad” or “Stock Farm” magazine, and the closest you’ve ever been to farming is the succulents in your window sill. However you are a South African who loves a nice lamb chop on the braai or a piece of lamb roast for a Sunday lunch. These things cannot be produced in a warehouse. No we need good, dedicated farmers who understand business as well as the elements of nature to produce good quality, nutritious lamb and mutton meat. Tineil Hurter, agricultural economist from the University of Pretoria is here to write about, but also for, the red meat producers of South Africa.

News about your lamb chop – Agricultural producer, meet your meat consumer

by Tineil Hurter and Marina Bester for Lamb and Mutton South Africa

Newspaper headlines and news stories about the weak currency and increasing food prices, where red meat is often the culprit, could easily make any producer wonder “who is going to buy my product?” The fact that red meat has become a more expensive product (compared to other protein commodities), is a reality and therefore Lamb and Mutton SA mainly channels its consumer education to the higher LSM (Living Standards Measure) consumer group in South Africa.

They are after all the consumers that can afford the product, but are often confused by incorrect and misinterpreted health messages that are not positive towards mutton and lamb.

These misconceptions together with a culture of fast foods and take aways without any mutton or lamb, creates a dark picture of consumers. Opportunities can easily slip through our fingers if we do nothing about the situation.

It is the mission of Lamb and Mutton SA to keep mutton or lamb on the consumer’s plate – despite all these counteractive forces. It is therefor our main goal for 2016 to keep the consumer informed, through radio and social media, as to how to use mutton (even the cheaper cuts) in a modern, convenient and economic way. This year we will use the expertise from butchers and restaurants to celebrity “braaiers” and top chefs in order to make lamb and mutton South Africa’s number one protein choice.

Who exactly is the South African consumer we want to reach? Tineil Hurter, a post graduate agricultural economy researcher of the University of Pretoria, currently focuses on research on the purchasing of lamb and mutton in South Africa and is therefor the correct person to introduce to the consumer of your product – proudly South African lamb and mutton.

How is the South African consumer defined?

With regards to purchasing power, our South African population is one of the most diversed populations in the world and often a headache for ecomomists to figure out. It is important to understand that although we often refer to the “higher income consumer”, consumers mostly spend more than their disposable income.

Right from cultures that have westernized to perceptions about meat that have caused myths, there still are many unmeasurable (and somewhat unpredictable) factors that have an influence on the consumer. There are some aspects that can be measured and whereby consumers are classified in order to simplify things. The Living Standards Measure (LSM) instrument is developed to group diverse consumers with different behavior in order for consumers with the same behavioral patterns to be able to be grouped together. The development of the instrument is stimulated by a range of events. The grouping of the population according to rural/urban areas has lost its value as a differentiation method as the gap between rural and urban markets shrank. At the same time consumer behaviour became more and more the same in both markets. The South African population is grouped according to living standards and is known as LSM groups. These groups are under no circumstances a measurement of racial groups but rather reflects the real population distribution.

Every group has its own perception of what quality is en therefor is it important to know exactly who is a product’s target consumer and what their needs are in order to produce a product that fulfills their requirements.

LSM groups can be simplified as follows

LSM 1 – 4: The low income consumer: In 2013 approximately 22% of the population was in the LSM 1 - 4 group with an average monthly income of R2 372. The low income group spends up to 50% of their income on food and is therefor very price sensitive when it comes to the purchasing of food products. Most of these consumers stay in rural areas in traditional huts or shacks, while only 15.9% stays in the so-called “matchbox” houses. This group has little to no access to basic services. Individuals have little exposure to high school education but no matric. They look and listen mostly to African language radio stations and television programmes. The group’s age varies between 15-24 and 50+.

LSM 5 – 7: Approximately 53.5% of the South African population is the middle class consumer with an average monthly income of R7 683. This consumer group has access to a variety of media channels. They stay in urban areas and have access to all basic services. A group of 25-49 year olds is represented in LSM 6 and the lower segment of LSM 7, while the higher segment of LSM 7 consists of 25-34 year olds. LSM 7 has at least 1 out of 7 days access to internet. All consumers in this group have at least matric although a large percentage of this group is still without a job.

LSM 8 – 10 is the higher income consumer with an average monthly incomce of R25 725. These consumers live in urban areas. Most of them have matric or a higher qualification. These consumers have access to internet and all forms of local and international media including television, radio, glossy magazines, electronic media resources and newspapers. This group is very vulnerable to international consumer trends.

Current consumer consumer trends

Income levels are surely one of the biggest underlying forces of consumer patterns, especially products that are sold at a premium price. Just because a consumer can afford a product does not mean that he/she will want to have the product. Consumers must be empowered with information which will again create the need to buy the product. Except for basic human needs, the “ambition” to buy a product can become a certain trend. Some trends have a short life span and are created by a popular culture and the media, while other trends are more sustainable and become part of a persons lifestyle.

An international research company, Mintel Food and Drink, who supplies large roleplayers in the food industry with data about food trends and consumer needs, issued a report with 2016’s top food trends. The good news is that quite a few of these trends fit Lamb and Mutton SA like a glove!

Mintel Food and Drink predicts 2016’s food consumer trends as follows:

·         Artificial: Public Enemy No. 1

       Eco is the new reality
       From the inside out
•       Alternatives everywhere
•       For Every Body
•       Based on a true story
•       E-revolution: From Carts to Clicks
•       Good enough to tweet
•       Table for one
•       Diet by DNA
•       Fat sheds stigma
•       Eat with your eyes

The current consumer trends, “artificial-public enemy no. 1” and “diet by DNA” show that consumers are aware of the importance of eating fresh food, as close to its natural form. Consumers are moving more and more back to the basics when it comes to food and want to consume the correct type of food that is made for the human body. Consumers insist on less processed foods with long lists of ingredients and preservatives. The consumer in general sees fresh meat as a primary protein source that has various health benefits. Because of this, the consumer trend, “fat sheds stigma”, is ideal for the consumption of mutton and lamb. For a few years the consumer had a distorted picture of mutton and lamb. Everyone was concerned about their health and cholesterol levels. This led to many consumers “banning” mutton and lamb from their diets. Trolleys in chain stores were stacked with loads of lettuce and greens, chicken breasts, and not to even mention the gluten free bread and butter free baked products.

Thanks goodness for the excellent South African research on red meat and Prof Tim Nokes that convinced South Africans that not all fat is bad. (Instead of actually admitting that mutton has made it back onto barbeques, we have only given it the fancy name of Banting!)

However, the consumer is not only more concerned about his/her health, but also about the environment and the treatment of animals. They want easy, tasteful and “guilt-free” food regarding sustainability of our environment. The fact that most of South African sheep herds are free grazing, is a positive contributing fact for the industry of which the consumer can be made more aware of.

Another consumer trend that contributes to the consumption of South African mutton and lamb, is the element of “based on a true story”. Consumers want to learn more about the origin of the product, speak to the producer and share in the story. Products with names that can be associated with their origin, such as Karoolam, will according to this trend, become more popular on menus and on shop shelves. This is because a product such as Karoolam is traceable and is also unique in taste and production.

How do you reach these consumers?

As already mentioned, Lamb and Mutton SA targets the LSM 8-10 group. How do one actually decide which channels to use to communicate with consumers? In the end it is the media who plays a huge rol in communication and determines what trends consumers will follow (off course according to the contents of their wallets as well!).

From 2001 to 2004 a new consumer group joined the middle class and is known as the “Black Diamonds”. The Black Diamonds moved themselves from the lower LSM group to the middle class group. They strive together with other upcoming middle class groups to eventually follow the same lifestyle as the consumers that fall into the higher income groups. This ambition causes this group to be reached through channels we initially thought only reach the higher income consumers. These consumers tend to spend more of their income on luxury food such as lamb and mutton.

The South African food trade market are dominated by names such as Pick n Pay, Shoprite, Checkers, Spar and Woolworths and this is also where most consumers make their purchases.

Because our lives are more hurried than a decade ago, consumers have the need to get more pleasure from simple ways of preparing food, multi-cultural food experiences and quality meat. This one-stop convenience the consumer is looking for, is realised through technology. The higher LSM groups and even the upcoming middle class group tend to make their purchases online. Applications (apps) and websites that work on smartphones make it possible for consumers to get new recipes for the ingredients they have in stock just by the click of a button. Platforms on social media such as Facebook give housewives the opportunity to share recipes and ideas with others. These apps help the consumer to make their purchases online – anything from apples and salt to leg of lamb and rosemary can be delivered to your doorstep within a few hours.

Producers and dealers should make use of these platforms to market their products. The more specific, the better. The more unique the product, the easier the consumer will remember it, buy it and tell others about it.

Social media plays a huge role in the lives of the upcoming middle class consumer. They read news electronically and tell others often with what they are busy with. The trend to take photos of food and what the consumer is enjoying and then posting it on social media has become very popular. Friends and family want to see what we are preparing for Christmas or grandmother’s 80th birthday! Stories about food are shared and therefor it is crucial to make use of the powerful results of social media by getting your product’s name visible to others through the “hashtag” (#).

What does the consumer want when it comes to mutton and lamb?

Without a formal study and opinion polls on mutton and lamb specifically, we have put ourselves in the shoes of the general meat consumer and analysed our thoughts of what such a person would see as important when making a choice regarding leg of lamb or a lamb chop. The following characteristics emerged:

·         The meat should look and smell fresh.

·         The meat should have a nice colour.

·         The R/kg must be within my budget and my ability to purchase.

·         The packaging must be smart and hygienic.

·         The meat should not have excessive fat.

Although many of the aspects are not within the consumer's control, there are surely a few important characteristics and qualities that should be kept in mind. The analysing of the value chain is however a study on its own and justifies a whole new article for a next publication. You will agree that a lot of producers have pointed out that it is essential that a full national study of what the consumer exactly wants when it comes to lamb and mutton, is necessary. If you as the producer or consumer is willing to contribute to the current research study on lamb and mutton consumption, please contact Tineil Hurter at tineil.hurter@outlook.com.

If researchers and consumers can work together to get to know the South African consumer better, we can assure that lamb and mutton stays on the plate of every meat consumer in the country.

 

  So you didn’t grow up on a farm, the coffee table in your parents’ house never sported a “Lanbouweekblad” or “Stock Farm” magazine, and the closest you've ever been to farming is the succulents in your window sill. However you are a South African who loves a nice lamb chop on the braai or a piece of lamb roast for a Sunday lunch. These things cannot be produced in a warehouse. No we need good, dedicated farmers who understand business as well as the elements of nature to produce good quality, nutritious lamb and mutton meat. Tineil Hurter, agricultural economist from the University of Pretoria is here to write about, but also for, the red meat producers of South Africa.

So you didn’t grow up on a farm, the coffee table in your parents’ house never sported a “Lanbouweekblad” or “Stock Farm” magazine, and the closest you've ever been to farming is the succulents in your window sill. However you are a South African who loves a nice lamb chop on the braai or a piece of lamb roast for a Sunday lunch. These things cannot be produced in a warehouse. No we need good, dedicated farmers who understand business as well as the elements of nature to produce good quality, nutritious lamb and mutton meat. Tineil Hurter, agricultural economist from the University of Pretoria is here to write about, but also for, the red meat producers of South Africa.

  Marina is the Project Manager of Lamb and Mutton SA’s consumer education project. Marina did her degree in Consumer Science at the University of Pretoria. She is currently a MSc student in Nutrition under the mentorship of Prof Hettie Schönfeld at the University of Pretoria.    Contact Marina for any questions or information about Lamb and Mutton SA’s consumer education project at  marina@healthymeat.co.za .

Marina is the Project Manager of Lamb and Mutton SA’s consumer education project. Marina did her degree in Consumer Science at the University of Pretoria. She is currently a MSc student in Nutrition under the mentorship of Prof Hettie Schönfeld at the University of Pretoria.

Contact Marina for any questions or information about Lamb and Mutton SA’s consumer education project at marina@healthymeat.co.za.