Branding over certification

Branding over certification

BIOAQUA
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REEF
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VAN BEEST
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By: The Fishmonger*

The Fishmonger has been looking at other protein markets to consider what they are doing in this space and has concluded that working on your brand will create dividends well into the future.

The Fishmonger has been looking at other protein markets to consider what they are doing in this space and has concluded that working on your brand will create dividends well into the future. The time and money that continues to be spent on “private” accreditation/certification is not a worthwhile investment for anyone in our industry long term.

Eventually governments will create simple entry levels for all aquaculture production – it has done this for food safety for many years. These entry levels will cover animal welfare, traceability, environmental sustainability, and other such relevant issues.

“They will be mandatory so there will be no need for the costly certification/accreditation programs which have become major businesses in their own right over the years.”

As and when this occurs producers will be looking towards “what makes them different” and that will then highlight the need for branding more than ever. Branded product will be secret to price premiums. Major market buyers will expect exemplary animal welfare and sustainable practices as they have with food safety.

This will be the “ticket to play” and access markets but if all producers are in that space, then when is your point of difference? If you do not have one, then you are back in the commodity arena and will just be a price taker. If you make your brand stand out, creating a premium product you will be a price maker and that will be how you forget your future.

“Does anyone really think that consumers pay extra for food safety? Of course not! It is a given naturally and following up from there you have to seriously doubt that consumers would be prepared to pay any premiums for animal welfare, among other, because it will become expected behavior.”

No question the alternatives present far too many risks to the industry. Now the certification/accreditation companies will always prepare surveys that will tell you differently and why not? It is in their interests to do this. Over the years they have cleverly created a massive business positioning between the producers and major buyers continually manipulating positions to suit.

Good knowledge has been gained which clearly has been beneficial but there are simply far too many organizations in this space, they all work to different standards, and this has created so much confusion for the end users. No one is getting premiums for product meeting these criteria and those governing organizations have no concerns for producers in this regard.

“You can create your own surveys or better still engage with your direct end users, and you will get a far better idea on where people stand on these issues enabling you to better plan for your future. After all you are no longer selling what you have but what the consumers want.”

The risks with producing aquaculture are already at the top end and no matter where you are this is a prohibitive cost industry. Once product has been produced you need some surety of market and price and what the certification is giving you are extra costs, locking you into commodity pricing and no individual opportunity to highlight your point of difference.

Branding over certification

Consider looking at products like eggs. There is a baseline standard for eggs and there are many different offerings. There are premiums being obtained for free range over caged as example. Many companies have seen this as an opportunity to create their own brand and have built a story around obtaining a premium price for a premium product.

“The difference can be dollars per dozen in the egg business and there is no reason this cannot be the same with aquaculture products.”

This concept is further advanced in two other areas that The Fishmonger is aware of. The first is “Label Rouge” (Red Label), a French government controlled sign of quality assurance defined by Law No. 2006-11. According to the French Ministry of Agriculture: “The Red Label certifies that a product has a specific set of characteristics that establish a higher level that a similar current product”.

The first aquaculture fish endorsed, it is reported, was in 1992, when Scottish salmon was awarded the Label Rouge quality mark, the official endorsement by the French authorities of the superior quality of a food or farmed product, particularly with regard to taste.

“To obtain this recognition, a very stringent set of standards prepared by a group of producers must be approved. These standards establish the criteria which the product must meet throughout the production chain, including farming techniques, feed, processing, and distribution.”

Approval is officially announced through a joint decree from the French Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and the French Minister for Consumer Affairs, on the recommendations of the National Institute for Origin and Quality (INAO). INAO is the French public body responsible for quality and origin marks relating to food products.

Scottish Quality Salmon is the standard owner of Label Rouge No. LA 33/90. Compliance with the standards is controlled by an independent certifying body, Acoura, formerly Food Certification International Ltd.

“Suppliers of whole Label Rouge Scottish salmon and Label Rouge Scottish salmon portions can be found on the Label Rouge Saumon Ecossais website (Home – Label Rouge Scottish Salmon (saumonecossais.com).”

The other area is in Australia through the Sydney Royal Aquaculture competition. This competition goes back to 1870 when only smoked, dried and preserved fish were exhibited, but today the competition includes cooked prawns, oysters, fresh fish, cured salmon/trout, caviar, and other farmed aquaculture products from all over Australia.

The object is not to judge one product against another or one producer against another but to benchmark all entered products against criteria based on taste and looks organized around consumers requirements. Essentially Sydney Royal Competitions set the benchmark for agricultural excellence that underpins Australia’s agricultural performance ensuring a viable and prosperous future for our rural communities.

Branding over certification

Medals are awarded based on blind independent judgements; a win is testament of achievement at the highest level. It is recognition of dedication, ability, uncompromising diligence, and sheer arduous work. As well as pride and prestige, a Sydney Royal win provides a springboard to increase returns.

“All winners receive Sydney Royal medal or trophy artwork designed to be used across a wide range of marketing collateral.”

Regardless of a win in the Wine, Dairy and Fine Food competition, judges’ comments are made available to every exhibitor enabling them to improve the quality of their livestock, agricultural produce, or product. All Sydney Royal Competitions, even those not connected directly to the land, are geared toward promoting, fostering, and encouraging the sustainable development of rural communities and agriculture in Australia.

This is great for all sized operations, but it is especially good for smaller producers as they get the opportunity to benchmark their products annually without much cost and, if successful, get incredible publicity which clearly adds value to their product.

Additionally high level restaurants are always on the lookout for a point of difference in supply sources and there is evidence that they pay premiums for that.

“Recently Rabobank (Dutch multinational agri-banking and financial services company) issued their latest report, ‘Global Seafood Trade: The Decade’s Winners Grow in Influence,’ (released 13 October) highlighted premium aquaculture –in particular, salmon and shrimp– has been a driving force behind current growth.”

This report suggested that the United States’ seafood market has fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic and is now the world’s fastest-growing market for seafood imports, with imports valued at USD 28 billion (EUR 28.9 billion) last year.

Importantly, it noted, that the demand is being driven by health- and sustainability-conscious consumers, particularly among millennials and baby boomers, with millennials accounting for more than USD 200 billion (EUR 206.1 billion) in purchasing power, and the latter demographic comprising seventy-seven million people.

So, The Fishmonger encourages you all to create your values that appeal to your consumers; build your story around those; take advantage of benchmarking your product and enhancing your quality. Bring your staff with you on this journey and get everyone involved and you will be surprised what benefits come your way.

Comments

France acts on “Meat”

It has taken some time but finally the penny has dropped in France and that hopefully will flow on right around the world. Plant based products will no longer be able to be labelled “Meat”!

The decree issued in the French government gazette, Journal official states: “It will no longer be possible to use terminology belonging to sectors traditionally associated with meat and fish to describe products that do not come from animals.”

This will include terms such as “steak,” “lardons” or “sausage”, to describe plant-based products that are considered as meat substitutes. This rule came into effect on 1 October 2022. Products made and labelled before this date will be permitted to remain on sale until 31 December 2022.

“The decree lays out precise rules for the amount of vegetable protein allowed in meat products for them to be able to keep their “meat”-relayed names, for products that come from animals but have some vegetable protein.”

An example given was hamburger (minced meat) may continue to carry a “steak hache” label provided that its vegetable protein content does not exceed 7%.

This percentage drops to 3% for frankfurters, 1% for black pudding or dry sausage, and 0.5% for bacon. Some farmers’ groups in France say the decree does not go far enough but everyone agreed that it is a good start and should be extended throughout Europe and beyond.

Terms like “milk”, “butter” and “cheese” are already banned at the European level on products that are not of animal origin. Interestingly the term “burger” used by many brands to attract customers, would still be allowed as it does not specifically refer to meat.

References and sources consulted by the author on the elaboration of this article are available under previous request to our editorial staff.

VAN BEEST
GREENPIN
REEF
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