Meat suppliers 'must connect more with customers'

Completing research on your customers is the best way to survive an uncertain future, food marketing professor Andrew Fearne has informed AIMS conference delegates.

Director of the University of Kent’s Centre for Value Chain Research, Fearne instructed independent meat suppliers to “get connected” with their customers, warning that, otherwise, the supermarkets would takeover the remaining market share.

He added the meat industry will be threatened by other sources of protein in the future and SMEs should not be focusing on feeding the masses, but specialising in what specific consumers want.

Fearne said: “Consumers are incredibly heterogeneous – that means they are very different. So different people want different things at different times for different reasons.”

“You don’t need to focus on what the masses are doing, you’ve got to understand the specific route of consumers that don’t want what the masses want, what they need and why, and their behavioural preferences are different. If you don’t understand that, you may make the wrong decisions.”

Professor Fearne added that the way to beat supermarkets was through learning how they operate, such as Tesco’s Clubcard scheme, which is designed to win loyalty.

“Eighty per cent of meat consumed in the home is bought in supermarkets and are they giving up on the other 20%? No they’re not, so don’t be complacent in thinking: ‘People hate Tesco, they will always shop from us. They will always buy English, they will always buy the regional brand,’ - bollocks. Tell them English is good because  . . . Tell them the regional brand is going to blow their tastebuds off. Don’t just assume that putting a label on your product is sufficient, tell them where it comes from and they will come back for more.”

He concluded that consumer insight should be a part of the business planning process.

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