Red Meat Story: next chapter taking shape

Red Meat Story
Learning from consumers in the marketplace: part of the foundation for New Zealand's new red meat story.

The next chapter in the  Red Meat Story is taking shape with a new origin brand for New Zealand sheepmeat and beef in the making.

The last few months have seen the development and testing of a New Zealand red meat brand story with red meat buyers in some of New Zealand’s most important markets around the globe.

Michael Wan, Beef and Lamb NZ
Michael Wan.

From April through to early July, Michael Wan Beef + Lamb NZ’s global manager of the Red Meat Story has been working with Foundational – the brand agency partner – and Forward – the strategic research consultancy on the task. This culminated in July with two teams of three visiting cities in eight markets: the US, UK, Germany, United Arab Emirates, India, China and Indonesia and New Zealand. Their tasks were to investigate premium value drivers and trends for red meat in each market and test six brand story propositions for the new campaign.

More than 200 consumers  took part in focus groups while researchers also accompanied them on meat buying trips to see how they navigated the retail store when buying their meat.

As part of the research, importers, wholesalers, distributors, retailers and food service professionals were interviewed in order to understand what motivates them to buy premium and the team tested New Zealand’s propositions. NZ Trade & Enterprise market specialists were also very helpful, says Wan.

What they found generally was that health-conscious consumers around the globe are eating red meat less frequently.

“But when they do choose to consume red meat, they want high quality, premium red meat,” he explains. “People are seeking out more natural products that are better for them and their families with grass-fed and pasture raised is on the rise.

Consumers are ‘modal’ too, “while one person may mainly be driven by one need, on different occasions they will have other needs and look for other benefits, such as convenience during the week versus indulgence on the weekend,” he says.

“What that means is the reach for premium is wide and the opportunity for us to target people in different modes in each of those markets is good.”

It became apparent to Wan and his team that while New Zealand lamb showed potential signs for value and demand growth, development of New Zealand beef will be more of a challenge requiring focus. This is because beef as a category has few unique selling points with many, sophisticated and well-established competitors, like Australia’s Meat & Livestock Association, operating in a crowded retail marketplace.

“In terms of beef, New Zealand is well behind other nations at an origin level. New Zealand doesn’t have a high profile as a beef producing nation,” says Wan.

In contrast, lamb in general showed good potential as a growth category.

“It is perceived as being a leaner, more naturally raised meat with a distinctive taste.  It could be a good opportunity for New Zealand because our reputation in those markets we visited is positive in association with lamb.”

One of the key consumer trends, identified by the B+LNZ team, is food anxiety. Consumers have a heightened anxiety about food safety, what’s in their food and animal welfare, though an interesting observation is that often the animal welfare concern is related to the quality of the meat rather than the moral issue around farming animals, says Wan. With greater public scrutiny and distrust of industrial food production there is a growing desire for connection to ‘real’ food production that’s more natural and results in a positive eating experience.

Six brand ‘territories’ – themes – have been tested with consumers and trade contacts through story headlines, a more detailed story narrative and proof points that verified points of the story and imagery.

“It became pretty clear quite quickly that we’re headed in a particular direction,” says Wan. “That is the unique taste experience of New Zealand natural grass-fed lamb and beef raised in an authentic, more peaceful way, in harmony with our beautiful environment.”

The research has also shown the limit of some consumers’ knowledge of New Zealand: The Lord of the Rings films.

“New Zealand, once understood, was described as what ‘organic’ looks like – in effect a short-cut to ‘natural’ – and we are well positioned to take opportunity of that,” says Wan. “New Zealand is in a unique place. In the future, it could open up opportunities to further differentiate the offering around unique breeds of animals or feeds. It would be a major advantage if New Zealand could, at a national level, say no GMOs, antibiotics or hormone growth promotants,” he believes.

According to Wan, the research also showed meat retailing is much more sophisticated and involved than most New Zealanders are familiar with.

He points to those global, modal consumers, whose decision-making hierarchy is made on country of origin, cut, colour and marbling, “which underlines the reason we need a strong origin story a brand and to invest in an activation strategy to communicate in a compelling way what’s great about the way we do things here,” he says.

“We’re basically being out-marketed by others whose product and provenance isn’t any better than ours. People are willing to pay significant premiums for red meat with the attributes they’re looking for.”

The future will involve focusing and being selective about the markets New Zealand wants to go after based on sound economic rationale, he says.

“Investment in a sustained way in consumer promotion and marketing is important, but it also needs to be made at every stage of the supply chain, importers, wholesalers, distributors, foodservice, retail and done in a sustained manner over the long-term, while business relationships are developed,” he says, adding a focus on value capture as well as value creation is important.

“I’m optimistic about the potential to capture more value,” he says. “The important thing for us is that the activity is co-designed with farmers and industry.”

During September, the team consolidated the insights learned, further developing the brand strategy and core Red Meat Story narrative and developed creative concepts for testing this month in the same markets with consumers and trade.

“The next step will be to share what we learn with sector stakeholders, including farmers and meat companies and bring the story to life through creative development from November,” says Wan.

You can hear more about it directly from Michael Wan in the video below.

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