We were privileged to host a workshop at the Global Berry Congress in Rotterdam on the subject of building a berry brand for the online market. In Europe, the sales of branded produce are on the rise, but the UK remains steadfastly resolute in its refusal to display product brands in fresh produce. As the online market opens up to branded possibilities for the fresh world, we looked at what this could mean. Our workshop is summarised below, with our workbook to download if you would like to try this for yourself.
Our vision is to create a strong future for fresh produce that is going to continue to feed the world even after we have all retired. Please make it your mission (with us) to pave the way for the future, so that you can retire and feeling proud of what you have done. When you reflect on your career, may it have little to do with looking backwards. As when looking in a mirror, may you look forward to see what looks back at you. This will be the result of the action you take now.
The fresh produce market is undergoing a period of serious disruption and it faces immense pressures from multiple directions, alongside some of the most exciting opportunities the market has ever seen.
Everywhere we go we are faced with the same comments from all suppliers, farmers and retailers:
• Weather worries
• Price wars
• Pressure to innovate
• Currency pressures and the impact on the European workforce
• Food waste
• Environmental pressures
And yet, this is the most exciting opportunity for fresh produce as the world faces similar problems that can be solved by your industry, because the people sitting in this room are the people who feed the world. As the population rises and this becomes an ever-increasing challenge, your role is going to get bigger, and more important than ever. Out in the world we are seeing patterns emerging:
• The rise of veganism
• The rise of meat-reducers who are concerned about health and environmental impact
• Health and fitness bloggers online who are becoming more and more part of our everyday consciousness
• Sugar reduction
• More protein, fewer carbs
• People want to know where their food comes from
• The rise of online shopping - and this is the one we focused on at GBC2018
The internet has been around for years! Why is there now an opportunity online?
In the UK alone, online grocery retail has grown by over £2bn between 2016 and 2017, according to Mintel. This figure is forecast to rise by a further 12 per cent this year and whilst total food retail grew by just 1.5 per cent, online grocery shopping rose by 15 per cent in 2016.
Another interesting statistic is that 60 per cent of those who shop online who were surveyed, said that they would be happy to buy a full weekly online shop from discounters. This is a major consideration as it calls into question all of the effort we put into sourcing premium and quality product, packaging and Point of Sale, etc. IS it actually a price war? Or is it a matter of convenience and service? If the discounters could offer same day delivery I think the world would be in an interesting place.
With the growth of online retail that is not necessarily governed by the large supermarkets, it is a really interesting time for those of you who have previously been invisible in the supply chain, and those who have struggled to get a brand on pack in retailers. Amazon Fresh is one of the most interesting opportunities in retail for a very long time, but we are also seeing the rise of ingredient and meal kit boxes, veg boxes, services that deliver food from any restaurant, etc.
With logistics becoming better and better, and more unattended delivery solutions becoming available, there is the opportunity for better margin, better branding and fewer steps in the supply chain.
Not only are the logistics, margins and flexibility better, but the whole online sphere is supported by conversations with customers in the form of articles, blogs, advertising and social media. For example, if you find a meal idea on Instagram or Facebook and you could immediately click through to get the ingredients that would be delivered same day (or within an hour, like a takeaway), imagine what that might do to the future of retail.
The internet of things is growing exponentially, alongside Augmented Reality and Artificial Intelligence. GE is currently working on a project that creates a developer platform for linking edge devices (such as fridges, windmills, etc) to the cloud, to operational devices, to analysis. Imagine the possibilities for this. Ingredients will become much more bespoke and tailored to the individual. Intelligent toothbrushes are currently in development, that can analyse your saliva to check for serious heart disease or nutritional deficiencies. Imagine if this could link to your online shop to buy the food that your toothbrush felt that you needed. This sounds crazy, but is not wildly inaccurate. Imagine what a computer analysing the data could do if it discovered that there were patterns of nutritional deficiency by area, and therefore could place intelligent and strategic marketing in those localised areas.
What are the considerations for designing for online that are different to the retail shelf?
Supermarkets work hard to create impact on multiple levels. There should be impact from 30ft (signage, attractive displays, etc), then 6ft (starting to look at packaging, product, etc) and then 3ft when it is in the customer’s hand (labelling, shelf messaging, etc). By the time the customer is physically connected with the product, the messaging and connection with the product should be more emotive, which is why labelling starts to address matters of ethics, values, and self esteem.
In a good online shop, this rule still applies. You will see a small preview of a product. When you click in to it, you will see a slightly larger image, and more detail. When you click again on the image it should become bigger, or have a zoom capability, in order that you can look at detail and feel more connected with the product. This is not the case in all shops. Have you ever clicked an image to see it in more detail, only for a pop-up box to open with exactly the same size image in it? If it doesn’t zoom, then suddenly all label information is not in the least bit relevant and the customer is now relying entirely on brand. They need to trust the brand they are buying from in order to make a purchase when hardly seeing the product. Online retailers need to create the effect of someone walking towards, and away from a product, but on screen.
Imagine using augmented reality to bring a store layout into your living room, where you could walk around the store, or just look all around objects in detail before choosing them.
There are many considerations when designing for online that makes it different to store design. You do not necessarily have the same attractive ‘displays’ and ‘end units’ to look at. These might be emulated in some way, but generally speaking you are looking at a grid of individual, categorised products. The key messages need to be much bigger on the label, in order to be read quickly at a very small size.
So what is a brand?
Traditionally branding was a way of identifying your cow, by burning a mark on its bottom with a red-hot iron. In the 1980s “branding” simply related to products on supermarket shelves. Now, a brand is so much more. Everything you feel, think of and imagine when you recall a company is its brand.
“Brand is about meaning”.
This is why brand matters. It is a tool for businesses to use to identify themselves and to build trust, and a tool for consumers to use to aid shopping decisions. Branding is like wayfinding for shopping. When you drive down a motorway you have to understand the meaning of symbols and words at high speed to be able to respond quickly. Branding carries the same weight. Your logo identifies a whole system of meanings that sit behind it.
Common myth about branding:
“I have 10,000 customers. I don’t need a brand”
This might be true. However, just because customers have shopped with you once, doesn’t give them a reason to do so again. If you are a local hardware shop without a brand, people might be loyal to you because of proximity, but your audience is limited to geographical parameters.
In the case of fresh produce you might say “but I supply 100 per cent of Tesco or Albert Heijn strawberries”. What happens if you lose that contract tomorrow? What happens if margins become too tight to make it a viable business? If you remain an invisible part of the supply chain, then you have no corporate equity in your own right. There is no business that someone wants to buy, and nothing for customers to put their trust in. You have nothing for your customers to tell others about. This applies both to your company and your product.
It doesn’t sound great if you say, “I bought these amazing unlabelled blueberries, you should try them!” Whilst you can survive as just a commodity and not a brand, it will always be more difficult for you.
However, for most commodity brands, you will always have to be quicker, cheaper and more convenient than everyone else, because that is what you will be judged on. Does this sound familiar? It certainly does in the UK. We have lost sight of why brand matters and we are all trying to be the same brand, selling commodities. When you start to sell commodities you forget about people’s values, and what actually matters to them.
At the moment you are reliant upon the brand of your sales outlet to buy your product, represent it and strengthen its market potential. You have little say in the price, the presentation, the sales volumes, the product positioning in store, the product mix surrounding it, the special offers on your product or other products alongside it, the competition both in store and in close proximity to the store, the shelf and sales messaging inside or outside of the store, and the ratio of product supplied by your or other suppliers. The worst thing about this situation is that the multiples have the monopoly in terms of sales volumes. You rely on this system and chain of events 100 per cent in order to run your business. There is a huge amount of trust involved and you spend much of your life fighting to keep what you have, rather than innovating and looking to the future. This is why retail in the way we have always known it is dying. Many people feel like there is nothing they can do about it.
What I have learnt in business is that whatever barriers you face personally or professionally, there is always something you can do about it.
You just have to do it differently.
We are going to break everything we thought we knew about retail by looking at a market that is still relatively new in terms of the opportunities it now presents for fresh produce. The market we are looking at is the online market and in this workshop we are going to be creating the strategy and building blocks for an online berry brand. The reality is that we can’t create a brand in one hour, so we are going to cover just some of the building blocks required, but the hope is that it will get you thinking about how you could actually go about developing your own brand online.
If you ask most retailers whether they would consider posting fruit, they always come up with barriers. Yet somehow Bloom & Wild has devised a way to post huge bouquets of beautiful flowers through letterboxes, and their branding, product mix, messaging and service is fantastic.
If you would like to have a go at creating a brand and looking at the steps involved, please click here to download our workbook.
You are now well on your way to creating a great brand! Our dream at Pink Sky would be to see some of these brands come to life, and we would love to help you with this. It might not be a product that you are trying to brand, you might be trying to give your company a new direction. It is definitely time within the produce industry to do something new and the world is waiting.
Who is in?