QSM marks need more impact

The EBLEX and BPEX quality standard marks (QSM) needs to make a better connection with consumers, according to the chief executive of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

Speaking before the arrival of AHDB this week, Kevin Roberts said that the board should be "exploring whether we can get better consumer connection than the current EBLEX and BPEX market strategies deliver".

His remarks follow on from the recent row between the livestock associations and the National Farmers' Union over fears of a centralised marketing campaign under AHDB, with the Red Tractor scheme mooted as a replacement for EBLEX's QSM.

The AHDB is exploring the possibility of a collaborative standard mark, but it said any decision would have to be approved by the sector bodies. Roberts said the QSM had done some great work within the supply chain, getting people to sign up, but was not as effective within the consumer sector.

"There's not a lot of labels appearing on packs for consumers. It's not completely accessible to consumers and we need to get the message to them, so they'll want to buy more or pay more for that product. So we're looking to see if we can improve that."

EBLEX chairman John Cross agreed that the mark was failing to reach the consumer

on-shelf. "We've got great consumer awareness [through the Beefy and Lamby campaign] but when they go into the retailers, they cannot find it.

"We have responsibility to the whole chain, but, having said that, the major retailers are a very big player and we've not got presence on-pack on the shelves, except for some in Asda."

Cross did not rule out the adoption of a single mark across all sectors, but he said that did not mean "parking up" the existing QSM structure.

"The scheme would stay the same; we'd simply be rebadging it so that retailers would be willing to put it on-pack," he said. "It's not as if we've got huge ubiquity on pack. If we'd had that and were changing it, then we'd have some explaining to do. We've almost got the chance for a fresh start."

Andrew Garvey, marketing manager with EBLEX, said work should be done on improving the mark's retail penetration: "Getting it on pack is a challenge for anybody, no matter what the quality standard is. We've not done badly; all the retailers are signed up and many use it on a regular basis. However, looking at how we improve that penetration is critical, going forwards."