Eblex revamps QSM scheme

Eblex is ramping up its quality standard scheme in a bid to strengthen its position and differentiate itself towards the premium end of the market.

The criteria behind the Quality Standard Marks (QSMs) for beef and lamb have been revised and improved, following a lengthy consultation process with industry and members, said Laura Bishop, marketing manager with Eblex.

The aim of the development was to reposition the mark, which was established in 2004, within the premium market, and produce specifications which helped to guarantee eating quality, consistency and efficiency in production. Bishop said the idea was to add value across the entire supply chain – providing better farm gate prices, greater yields and reduced waste.

The revised scheme will also be supported by a new above-the-line advertising campaign — following on from the retirement of the ‘Beefy’ and ‘Lamby’ characters in 2008 and potentially building on the “tough standards, tender results” strap. Bishop said details were still being decided on the advertising campaign, but “everything was in the mix”.

However, she added the campaign would be more targeted: “The message will be a lot more focused, targeted at food-savy shoppers, people who seek out product with higher eating quality.”

She said the scheme would now be more clearly differentiated from the Red Tractor mark: “Red Tractor very much defends the market, it’s an assurance mark, whereas the QSM is a quality mark. We see there is a place for both, and this will help differentiate them further. We’ve upped the ante, so that retailers can have more confidence in their QSM beef and lamb products.”

The changes to the scheme come in from 6 August, with promotional work beginning later in September. Bishop said initial responses to the improvements had been positive, with 95% of people consulted on the changes in favour of the new specifications.

She added the changes had also given Eblex the chance to re-engage with the scheme’s 2,500 members, and said the preliminary discussions with retailers had been positive, with many interested in using the mark within their premium lines.

Such a move could prove positive for the mark, which had struggled to get traction on retail shelves, with many multiples opting to use the Red Tractor logo. However, Bishop said the scheme appeared on around 25% of beef and 26% of lamb products at the point of retail, and had gained solid support as an internal business-to-business quality mark, particularly within the foodservice sector.