Red meat's value-for-money challenge

THE Scottish red-meat industry has gained public endorsement for the quality of beef, lamb and pork it produces … and a challenge for its future marketing efforts.

Research yesterday revealed that Scottish consumers continue to place high importance on buying red meat born, bred and processed in Scotland.

But the same research showed that up to one third of London-based consumers were unaware of Scottish beef as a brand, but were unable to say why they did not buy it.

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Michael Friedman, an analyst at food and grocery expert IGD, said this response was the real challenge for the Scottish industry as the London market was "more difficult to crack" since consumers there put greater emphasis on price. Even though food prices had become much more important during the recession, Friedman said Scottish buyers remained much more likely to pay a premium to secure home-produced meat than their London counterparts.

With 91 per cent of buyers in Scotland saying they bought Scottish red meat to support Scottish farmers and because they viewed beef and lamb produced north of the Border as being of higher quality, Friedman said there was a very positive base of public opinion on which the industry could grow.

The problem for those involved in marketing red meat is that the price has risen well above inflation. Friedman pointed out that almost everyone was either directly affected by the recession or had a friend or relative who had lost their job.

"That is a powerful barrier and one that has not been experienced by many of today's buyers," he said. The long-term effects of this aspect of the recession on the retail trade were still to be realised, he added.

According to Laurent Vernet, head of marketing at Quality Meat Scotland (QMS), consumers were divided on the issue of price.

His view was that there were those who were only interested in the cheapest product available while others tended to look for value for money.

As far as marketing Scottish red meat in London, Friedman urged the industry to concentrate on raising its profile through focusing on the better taste and higher quality of the meat, effectively enhancing its value for money.

Friedman said that meat buyers were now looking for assurance on animal welfare issues.

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He told an industry conference in Perth, organised by QMS: "When compared with previous surveys, other issues have faded away while concern over animal welfare has come in to top the field."

This concern on how animals are treated on farm used to be true for raw meat but now buyers were also looking for animal welfare assurances on packs of processed meat.

The chairman of QMS, Donald Biggar, said the research that had been presented to the conference was key to the forward planning of the organisation.

It helped ensure that the industry would be well placed to meet consumers' demands across the British market.