Consumers increasingly expect ‘behind the scenes’ access to the food brands they care about, writes our Head of Corporate Services, Duncan Mackenzie-Reid.
The horsemeat scandal is a distant memory for many consumers, but its impact on the brands they buy from has lasted. Pressure on food brands to be more transparent about their supply chain ratcheted up in the wake of the scandal, and plenty have obliged, providing information on their sourcing of raw materials, choice of suppliers and factory production.
McDonald’s leads the pack here, having switched its advertising strategy from one of treat-based indulgence to a ‘field to fork’, pastoral idyll that showcases supplier relationships and its support of the British countryside.
While primarily an ATL campaign, the thread is picked up in its PR strategy, which sees journalists taken around factories to address product misconceptions and questions head-on (a cursory online search reveals answers to questions such as ‘what is the pink goop in McNuggets?’ and ‘how do they get their eggs that shape?’).
Our work with Morrisons in launching its healthy food range NuMe allowed us to witness true transparency first-hand. In the midst of the horsemeat scandal, the retailer was able to confirm that it bred all its own livestock, and could therefore be 100 per cent certain all of its cows were indeed cows … and not horses.
This confidence is of paramount importance in the food and nutrition sector, where many products lay claim to significant health benefits. Manuka honey is a prime example of a product that requires total supply chain transparency – not least because of a number of reports of sketchy mis-selling. Although only some 2,000 – 3,000 tonnes of the genuine article are produced in New Zealand each year, three times as much is sold as ‘manuka’ throughout the world.
The media, increasingly interested in this kind of story, were keen to point out that this suggests a discrepancy somewhere in the supply chain.
While the trend towards transparency in marketing communications may seem the preserve of megabrands such as McDonald’s, it will continue to prove a huge opportunity for start-ups who retain total control of their supply chain and the wider business.
Knowledge is power, after all, and what you don’t know can hurt you.