17 November 1995

WILL THE PUBLIC PAY FOR WELFARE?

Consumers cannot yet be persuaded to translate their welfare beliefs into buying decisions. To secure marketing advantage the pig industry must back its product with hard evidence that it is better than its competitors. Assurance schemes could play a key role.

Jonathan Riley reports

DESPITE the Ministrys assertions that a unilateral ban on the use of stalls and tethers would provide UK pig producers with a marketing opportunity, consumer research suggests otherwise.

Studies by market researchers NOP, on behalf of the Danish Bacon and Meat Council, suggest that most consumers would not be willing to pay significantly more for a welfare-friendly British product. And when faced with packs labelled as being from a high welfare production system, only 3% of those surveyed trusted that the meat was sourced from welfare-friendly systems.

Chris Lamb, consumer marketing manager for the MLC, says: "Generally, in consumers minds, the stalls and tethers ban is not an issue that would affect their buying decision.

"In the past, a great deal of MLC promotion has focused on niche markets such as outdoor produced pigmeat.

"Because of this, the MLCs future promotion of British pigmeat will concentrate on promoting pigmeat products as a whole. Welfare will be part of this promotion but we must get the total approach right to improve overall sales volume," says Mr Lamb. "It is much more important that the consumer has an overall message about the product and not just welfare issues.

"We are two years into a programme to establish the marketing strategy which has involved extensive market research from multiples to the consumer.

"Differentiation of the British product is the way ahead and the strategy will develop a range of British pigmeat benefits," he says.

"It is clear that retailers are keen on the use of farm assurance to back all pigmeat products.

"It is vital that consumers are provided with substantiated evidence of the products ability to deliver what is promised and assurance schemes could play a key role," he says. &#42