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.