We must sell sizzle, not just our steak

View From the Paddock: We must sell our sizzle, not just our steak

OPINION
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Central Queensland cattleman and food manufacturer, Mark Davie. Mr Davie is now on the steering committee for the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework.

Central Queensland cattleman and food manufacturer, Mark Davie. Mr Davie is now on the steering committee for the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework.

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The supermarket duopoly is under-selling our steak, creating missed opportunities in customer education on nutrition and environment.

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The supermarket duopoly is under-selling our steak, creating missed opportunities in customer education on nutrition and environment. Packaging and point of sale messaging is a key source of influence, free real-estate and currently a lost opportunity for the beef industry.

Recent MLA research into consumer trends identified some interesting outcomes about perceptions of beef and how our customers are being influenced on animal welfare and environment themes. In the age of mass misinformation, the influence of traditional mass media sources - the internet and TV - is declining. Whilst influence is fragmenting, trust is increasing in information on animal welfare and environment from supermarkets, butchers, health professionals and health organisations.

Of the 28 per cent of participants who are consuming red meat less often, reasons stated are price (31pc), health (29pc), environmental concerns (15pc), and animal welfare concerns (12pc). Price is difficult to influence. The value of our product should be recognised and unfortunately we are unable to control the financial circumstances of purchasers. However, the other 56pc of reasons for consuming less beef we can and should address by ensuring consistent messaging of our beef story around health, environment and animal welfare. Most importantly, if we properly sell benefits of beef and address customer concerns, the price conscious consumer may attribute more value to our products, and reconsider price.

MLA also released some fresh meat sales research about purchasing decisions which highlight that 'functional' factors such as price, ease of preparation and freshness are driving choices between proteins. Pursuing these functional factors could favour chicken over beef, so why would we try to compete solely on these when we could sell all our other benefits as well?

For our industry to be truly strategic we must identify the opportunities to do something different. Consumer perceptions are driven by consumer experiences. I believe consumers may be telling us these items are important because by and large that is all they are being told and sold by major supermarkets. We need to sell our sizzle, not just our steak.

Interestingly, as the price of meat has gone up, the packaging is trying to make it look cheap; clear sealed trays, small nutritional panels with dollar dazzler logos being the most recognizable component on a product which has increased in price consistently for 20 years.

Through packaging we can sell our story for free and we can do it in a nuanced way. Why would consumers buy based on nutrition, welfare or environment if they are not being told these benefits, if all they are being sold on is price?

By contrast, in the same aisle, supermarkets are willing to allow plant-based meat alternatives to make dubious negative claims against beef by default, treat packaging as billboards, and stand behind the idea that they are saving the world by providing your children a mince alternative containing 400pc more salt than the cheapest beef mince available.

While 63pc of consumers surveyed believe Australian cattle farmers make a positive contribution, only 50pc of them recall hearing anything positive about the beef or lamb industry, even though 84pc of participants eat beef regularly. Getting our nutritional, environmental and welfare credentials onto packaging could quickly increase positive messaging and consumer sentiment significantly.

Our domestic beef marketing approach must evolve. We need to make the most of the real estate and recognize the true value of the superfood we produce. Importantly, we need to persuade the supermarket duopoly to break from the commodity approach where our nations great agricultural products are fast becoming loss leaders in a battle to sell private label products elsewhere in the supermarket.

- Central Queensland cattleman and food manufacturer, Mark Davie

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