Dump the Herd Mentality
By Bonnie Warnyca ,,, from Alberta Beef Magazine (January 2017 issue)

In the future, instead of looking at your “herd” as a whole and just sorting your market calves into weight or sex categories, you may look at them individually to determine what brand they fit under.
Once the beef industry begins to take down the sign for selling commodity beef, and creates multi brands depicting the “better benefits” of each particular beef product, then the real change begins.

Go to any supermarket and look at the cereal aisle to see the mega collaborative opportunities for the lowly oat, bran flake or wheat kernel. Each cereal is the result of collaboration between many food clusters aimed at satisfying the consumer wants. The selection is endless.
Much of the food industries, aside from the beef industry, have recognized that one size does not fit all and if the consumer wants choice, it’s out there in spades.

Jim Bottomley, a self-professed futurist, spoke at the Beef Industry Conference in Red Deer last February. He accepts that he has no suitability to be talking about how to re-brand the beef industry except for the fact that he spent years in new product development and marketing in…..you guessed it – the cereal aisle.

“I have a new product development background with Quaker Oats and I helped to launch Life cereal into Canada,” says Bottomley. “Every single product on the supermarket shelf is there because it has a BETTER BENEFIT. It specifically answers, in a better way, a need satisfier for a specific target audience.
“When we look at the beef industry, the perceptions are the reality. Consumers are asking for grass fed, hormone free, antibiotic free, chemical free feed additives, free range, no dogs that bite and the list goes on and on. Instead of throwing up your hands and saying they don’t know what they are talking about, think about it as a value-added opportunity.”

“Branding simply implies that there is something special about this product. Cottonelle paper products are the softest; Tide the cleanest. Look at the coffee industry. They sell coffee 30 ways from Sunday. You can get your daily fix in a Café Au Lait, mocha expresso, Hazelnut, deaf, low fat, skinny etc. You get the point – they sell coffee by meeting the consumer’s wants which become needs.”

Bottomley challenges his audiences to first figure out what it is they are selling? He uses Revlon beauty products as an example. They don’t sell makeup, they sell hope. Hope to look younger – feel better – be sexier. The Gap launched a line of clothing created for women in their 50’s but marketed them using 35 year-old models because women see themselves much younger than their actual birthdate.

In the U.S., Perdue Chicken’s marketing slogan was “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken”. They fed the chicken marigold to give the skin a nice yellow glow which may not have make it more tender – but helps Perdue Chicken stand out in the poultry aisle.

“The beef industry hasn’t even begun to differentiate themselves in the marketplace,” says this strategist. “I’ve asked a room full of beef producers if they can affect the end taste of beef and they all answered “yes”. Knowing that, there is an opportunity to sell taste in different ways.”
Those closest to the consumer such as A & W’s, Earl’s and McDonald’s are trying to tell producers to wake up and get on board with the new realities. The environment, animal welfare and natural additives are all on consumer’s minds.

For instance, when Bottomley talked with the ranchers at Prather Ranch in northern California, who successfully market branded beef, they said the number one question to their telephone hot line was, ‘how did the animal die’.

The how’s are changing
“There are two things in the new economy I call the innovation age and technology is behind the transition. Add to that whole life sciences, DNA and Nanotechnology and you have a recipe for success,” says Bottomley.
“Sotheby’s fine wine auction has a new product in the fine wine industry. It’s the first wine that is a smart wine because it has an RFID chip to measure the temperature of the wine during shipment and it raises a red flag if the perfect temperature changes. It offers peace of mind to the customer.
“What the wine industry hasn’t grasped yet, is that the RFID tag can also add more value to someone’s dinner party. It can hold all kinds of whimsical stories about how the wine was created. The story goes along with each bottle. Couldn’t the beef industry send their story line to the dinner table?
“I’m going to suggest that in the future, the individualized new how’s will come to the farm where every seed planted will be at a different depth based on micro soil conditions and climate. Real data will be used to improve the overall yield.”

Estimates are that we will one day have to help feed another 2 billion people on earth pushing production up by about 70 percent. With only eight countries, including Canada, able to feed the increased world population, it will take outside of the box thinking and a collaborative approach to make that happen.
Bottomley suggests that to cater to a wider range of appetites, we will no longer treat animals in a block but will increasingly customize how we treat the animal. Ultrasound, for instance could help us to look at the animal in a better way to improve our ability to deliver better weights and grades.
Nanotechnology could help the dairy industry take specific proteins and amino acids and add that to another food product. So when discussing collaboration, it’s no longer just within an industry, but looking outside the industry for other partnerships and opportunities.

New Zealand is now the world leader in dry milk products. Couldn’t the Canadian beef industry be a leader in Nanotechnology particles that drive health benefits for other food products?

The bottom line is you need to look at the needs attached to each purchase. You begin to identify the opportunities when you combine the psychographics (attitudes) and demographics to define new markets. It’s a big task, but one that could be richly rewarding. Did you know that Alberta is the world leader in Maple peas for European racing pigeons?

Turn a want into a need:
“There is so much potential for added-value cuts. When I worked for U.S. poultry, the vacuum packing meant more meals successfully shipped and opened the door for finished meals being packaged different ways,” says Bottomley.
“My friend’s restaurant in Jasper took sushi and created cowboy sushi with beef and it’s a big hit.
“Think outside the box. People are much more international today in nature, but one of the impediments Canadians have is we don’t think of ourselves as world class. We must get over our humble pie and think broader and bigger.
“In my estimation, most industries care too much about being cost effective. If you’re branded and have a successful benefit – the public doesn’t expect the product to cost the same or less than another.”
Humans have changed their attitude towards the environment and nature and the animals within it. They have gone from trying to conquer nature to living with nature.
“The cattle industry is still struggling to embrace traceability yet It’s no longer about the BSE scare; it allows Canadian beef producers to give their consumers peace of mind,” says Bottomley.

So, remembering that nothing else tastes like beef – what business are you in?