Comment: The evolution of red meat nutrition communication

Fiona Greig
Fiona Greig

As the domestic marketing body for the industry, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Inc (BLNZ), led by Rod Slater, prides itself with its history of drawing upon a scientific evidence base to underpin its health and red meat nutrition messaging.  This is why it has always had at least one qualified registered nutritionist or dietitian on staff, writes B+LNZ Inc nutritionist Fiona Greig.

We often describe the health and nutrition portfolio’s framework as the iceberg – the tip representing succinct messages, which showcase the attributes of eating red meat, supported by a wealth of evidence within the national regulatory environment.  Our territory has been nature’s power pack, an efficient source of valuable nutrients with a particular emphasis on dietary iron – red meat’s nutrient hero.  Campaigns that span two decades have held iron as the backbone of nutrition communication, drawing on the fact red meat is a valuable source of bioavailable iron, which plays a key role from the womb to the tomb.

The first 1,000 days from conception to toddlerhood is a time where good nutrition plays an integral in the growth and development of the baby, whilst supporting women while pregnant.  The BLNZ Ironstein campaign in the 1990s profiled the importance of iron in brain development and fast forward a few years, the Kids Love Mince campaign was born, which had the strongest impact on mince sales in the history of New Zealand meat promotion – the news made it onto NZ Herald’s front page.

Way to Grow, BLNZ advertising campaign
Image from B+LNZ Inc’s ‘Way to Grow’ advertising campaign.

With kids still in mind, a few years ago Way to Grow sought talent close to home, with children of the industry brought together to talk about their aspirations, and an underlying message of where nutrition plays a role in growing healthy New Zealanders.

To demonstrate the potency of iron in red meat, a series of comparative ads hit the screens in the 1990s, with the three kg of spinach vs a steak visually representing a daily dose of iron can be achieved by including a lean steak on your plate. At the time, we were also exhibiting the value of red meat over fish and chicken.

The public health issue of iron deficiency was tackled via the Faces campaign, where women talk about leading busy lives and feeling rundown, but unable to pinpoint why – this is a stronger case today.  Hence the BLNZ team recreated the television commercial to reinvigorate the take home message as part of World Iron Awareness Week, drawing on the fact most people are unaware they are low in iron when they are busy getting through life’s demands.

Come early 2000s, the multi-pronged campaign Red Meat Feel Good (RMFG), which was adapted from our Australian counterparts, saw our first official ASA complaint from the Hare Krishna society, for the Dancing Butchers TV advertisement.  With some amending of the script, using Allyson Gofton at the time, to deliver a message around key nutrient attributes of red meat, this was upheld.  RMFG provided a communication platform that allowed our nutrition story to be told across both the industry and public health sectors and provided a framework to launch our sports ambassadors, the Iron Maidens.

Iron Maidens
The original Iron Maidens.

We cannot say enough about what using female elite athletes has done for our industry, enhancing the messaging around red meat and vitality.  Role models that evoke sheer health and strength speaks to all New Zealanders, beyond our target market of the household shopper.  We look forward to sharing with you what we have established with our four industry rock stars next month, I promise you some goose bumps to be felt.

All the while, the suite of campaigns has been underpinned by the evidence base The Role of Red Meat in a Healthy New Zealand Diet, which ensures our credibility, and to support our engagement with education and health sectors.  This means resources can be developed to support the gatekeepers of healthy eating information.

So, with a history of successful campaigns behind us, that achieved cut-through at the time, in a less crowded and less complex communication environment, how do we cut through today’s plethora of information? We are up against media-driven polarised views, louder non-qualified voices, fad-driven trends and an underlying mistrust of the experts and the industry.

This keeps our problem solving and creative juices ever-flowing.  To that end, we have an exciting 2018 ahead as we evolve our traditional health and nutrition communication.  There is still a place for our resources with some key health workers – demand for hard copy brochures of feeding babies is still high, namely through Plunket, but how we reach the masses when the traditional television is collecting dust?

The launch of our digital strategy will see nutrition communication engage with the general public in a unique approach, using our in-house video compilation skill-base, which means we can adapt numerous targeted key messages on the fly, rather than locking in to longer TV campaigns.  This means we can be responsive to topics and issues in a way that resonates with the general public that is relevant and concerning to them.  This will be pertinent in Q1 of 2018, where we are expecting two global cancer reports which link meat with cancer, with media headlines likely to confuse consumers as science gets lost in translation.

Arming our digital communication toolkit is ever-evolving and we look forward to taking you with us on our journey.

To take a step down memory lane, the show reel of ads are on the campaigns link of

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