Blog: What's in a name when it comes to Tesco branding?

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Phil Bicknell, the NFU's Head of Food and Farming, looks at Tesco’s plans to rebrand some of its lines with the ‘names’ of fictitious farms.

He writes:

Nearly a decade ago, I undertook a lot of research into food provenance on behalf of clients.

As interest in local food burgeoned, what were the attributes behind food provenance and just how important was it to consumers? I ran survey work, studied sales data and spoke to shoppers, lots of shoppers, from Glasgow to Kent, across different lifestages and across different socio-economic groups.

I was reminded of this as I read an article from The Grocer magazine about Tesco’s move to replace its ‘everyday value’ brand to ‘farms’ brands. This brand was launched in store on Monday, there are seven different farm brands for different products - Redmere Farms for vegetables; Boswell Farms for beef. The names of these farms don’t have any link to where the product has been sourced from, something that has the potential to confuse or even mislead customers.

Casting my mind back to when I was doing market research into customers’ views of branding, I recall the reason for shopper interest in provenance was knowing where the food came from and how it was produced. This is often used to imply both quality and freshness. Referencing a farm or a farmer gave shoppers some type of assurance, and this could be further reinforced by imagery. I imagine that if you road-tested the new-look Tesco farm brands and packaging with shoppers, some would come to the conclusion that these new brands offered similar attributes of quality and freshness.

Time will tell how shoppers react, but I can’t help thinking that a fabricated brand that implies a degree of provenance could be viewed by some as misleading.

In order for customers to not be misled by this new branding it is vital that Tesco ensure that the origin - varied across the products - is extremely clear to customers. This should include flags and large Red Tractor logos.

It is clear that Tesco have identified that customers have a positive affinity with farmers and want to capitalise on this. In the popularity and trust stakes, supermarkets have been down at the bottom of the league alongside banks. By contrast, the NFU has worked hard to get across consumer messages around farming and our own research shows that farming is seen today in a broadly positive light.  Although we are pleased this is giving a positive view of our industry we want this image to be used with integrity.

Tesco are not the only retailer to have launched a brand such as this. Morrison’s use the ‘Market Deals’ brand to sell new Zealand lamb legs on promotion and both Aldi and Lidl use farm names within their branding. The key question to ask with this is, what are these brand’s trying to communicate? If this is not aligned with the origin sourcing and specification of the product we must ask if this is misleading to customers.

We strongly believe a provenance message is within Tesco’s grasp. They have a sustainable approach to working with fresh milk suppliers, which they have extended (adapted model) to cheese. They are trialling direct sourcing contracts in the lamb sector. I’m sure the country’s biggest retailer has the ability to fast track this and work with farmers across a number of products to further develop long term relationships and use the genuine provenance that British farmers can offer, but have they the will to make it happen?

  • Posted by: Chris FarrellPosted on: 24/03/2016 16:22:49

    Comment: I saw the 'new brands' announcement from Tesco and my first reaction was 'Oh good - they are showing the supply chain which means more accountability and traceability'.... Then I read more of the product details and found things labelled with an English sounding farm name contained fruit from as many as eight different countries - WHAT????? I was actually hoping I might start seeing the 'red tractor' logo appearing on the packs as well - but no, just a marketing ploy by the giant to make people think nice fresh, clean, cuddly farm animals and healthy produce - which has actually been shipped half way round the world. It makes me angry when companies use tricks like this to make people think the product comes from a known named farm and had the truth in the small print. Tesco has done this before with chickens and now they are spreading it to other produce to hide the "Value" label !
  • Posted by: Peter BarlowPosted on: 25/03/2016 06:32:03

    Comment: Yes it is misleading. I had assumed that the Lidl brand was at best a loose commercial association of farms in the UK. So I didn't take it *too* seriously...
  • Posted by: Rachael Dawson Posted on: 25/03/2016 07:59:48

    Comment: Disgusting and shouldn't be allowed as very misleading!!! Maybe they did this with the contents when horse meat was discovered in place of beef?????
  • Posted by: Maureen Fellows Posted on: 25/03/2016 08:18:18

    Comment: Surely it is illegal to make out something is not whathe it actually is
  • Posted by: George BeachPosted on: 25/03/2016 09:53:32

    Comment: I fully support Farm branding with true genuine provenance. Misleading made up farm names do really annoy me. We have developed a genuine Farm Brand 'Mudwalls Farm Produce' 'Provenance Assured' It is highly successful being stocked in a range of well know retailers who have supported our true brand which openly highlights the actual grower & the region of the grower. We have two sub brands 'British at its best' & 'Fresh at its Best' This allows us to promote British growers and non British growers respectively. Please do call us to learn some more and lets get true brands supported not mock fantasy ones! hope to hear from you.
  • Posted by: Susan DixonPosted on: 25/03/2016 17:54:10

    Comment: This is very deceitful, my daughter who works there believes they are farms that the food has come directly from. I was more sceptical when she told me. Now I find out the truth. I don't know why they have to go to these lengths the food is perfectly fine branded as normal.
  • Posted by: Sue BonhamPosted on: 26/03/2016 11:08:04

    Comment: I think it is misleading and will shop in my local butchers and green grocers .
  • Posted by: Gill PeasgoodPosted on: 30/03/2016 23:14:55

    Comment: I am a regular shopper at Tesco and I saw the Boswell Farm label. I assumed that the meat had been sourced from a farm bearing that name and I am absolutely furious that Tesco are misleading their customers in this manner. This information needs to be made known nationwide and Tesco should stop trying to pull the wool over its customers eyes with this trickery.
  • Posted by: Hilary JonesPosted on: 31/03/2016 15:04:54

    Comment: What's the difficulty that prevents Tesco from printing the actual names of the farms? This kind of scam is just what I would expect of them