Before we start the fall calf run and a series on marketing cattle in this column, we need to take one more look at what drives the consumer. We have discussed this before, but it is important because the source of our wealth as producers is from the consumer, and the integration between producer and consumer is almost non-existent.
That is not to say that I advocate that the producer is the one responsible to respond to consumer needs — that is simply not true. But as producers we do however have a stronger influence in our relationship with packer, processor, wholesaler and retailer when we are informed.
A report titled “The Why Behind the Buy,” which was almost a retail report card, laid out the realities of what drives consumers. In the frozen case there were actually 22.6 per cent fewer new items in 2011 than in 2009. The “me now” consumer has little tolerance for redundancy and the same old offerings did not bring them back unless it was for frozen breakfasts. That is a reflection of a growing trend and if the beef industry is going to survive on the shelf, it needs to appreciate the rush to meal-ready breakfasts.
The pharmacy, or drug store as we often call it, has become a close second to full grocery in terms of sales. With pharmacy there is an opportunity to one-stop shop and to promote healthy eating (assuming you believe that having fruit juice and pain relief a few steps apart is a wellness plan.) There is however no denying that many daily groceries are bought at the pharmacy and that clientele has a distinct taste for fibre-rich foods that they pair with energy drinks and vitamins.
At the fresh shelf in a grocery store, the consumer has changed spending habits considerably over the past 30 years, adding more baked goods and sweets, and cutting back on fruits and vegetables (natural sources of fibre) and meats (natural sources of vitamins and minerals). The move away from the meat case is the most dramatic with spending 10.4 per cent less than three decades ago. Despite the goodness of meats, the consumer has remained unconvinced. Why?
What’s on the label?
A full 64 per cent of consumers in this study say they need to see passion behind a label. If we are looking for a reality check at the meat case, then there it is. A black and white scrap of paper against a bloody-red or pale-white product on a black blotter under tubes of lighting that states a price under the name “Chuck” does not say much. It does not communicate “buy me for I am special and you will be a rock star if you do.” What it does say is “I don’t know who you are because I have not bothered to find out.” Understanding the demographic that you wish to sell to is of great importance and helps to target the product. The language on the label should match that demographic.
A plain white label does not say “This is so good for you that you will feel like superman.” Its absence of nutritional information suggests commodity marketing. I would venture to guess that if we want to stop the stream of bad tidings from those consumers who class all meat as industrial, corporate, or foul agriculture, then we could start by changing the label to reflect passion about who we are, what we do and why it matters.
More importantly we have not played into the consumers’ learned helplessness. They don’t know how to cook. So cooking “Chuck” is a bit unnerving because he bites back if he hits a BBQ and he most certainly has no tender feelings. He needs to be coddled, much like his buyer, and everyone needs to be clear that “Chuck” is more than just a slab of meat and that he can be teased into a remarkable eating experience. The label or additional peel-back label has to have step-by-step instructions for getting along with Chuck.
The “me now” buyers also have expectations from the retail outlet if they are expected to enter the store or return to it. They like apps, loyalty cards and coupons. That is quite a mix of wants, but if we want wealth from the shelf then it is critical to know the why behind the buy. The pharmacy features fibre and feel-good quick fixes, while keeping the shelves seasonal to maintain customer loyalty, and the resistance in grocery to the frozen case thaws if there are new breakfast items.
Back at the meat case, hunks like “Chuck” continue to get the cold shoulder as they lack creativity and passion behind their label.