MOST of Australian beef’s competitors can not deliver what discerning customers of the future want.
When you can do things that others can’t, therein lies incredible opportunity.
Be bold and grasp that.
This was the message delivered by Red Meat Advisory Council chairman Don Mackay at the Australian Lot Feeders Association annual conference, SmartBeef 2017, in Armidale this week.
Mr Mackay believes brands are the future for Australian beef.
Not everyone can have their own brand but everyone can be part of one, he said.
If you’re not, you’ll be a price taker in the future.
“Our population has never been more connected and consumers want more from less,” he said.
“They want to understand where their food is from, who producers it, how they do it.
“I admit I came kicking and screaming to accept there was a thing called social licence. The reality is the world has changed and you have to be a part of this because it will simply run over the top of you if you are not.
“If we are smart and we get ahead of it, the competition will never catch us.”
A brand is a promise to a customer, Mr Mackay said.
It’s about integrity, provenance, quality and certainty.
We can never compromise on the values and qualities that are part of the Australian beef brand promise - if we do that, the brand is dead.
“That means there is responsibility right through the supply chain - near enough is not good enough,” he said.
It is with these opportunities in mind the industry has pursued a beef sustainability framework, Mr Mackay explained.
The framework, headed up by Bryce Camm, is about showing what beef is doing, and where it is improving, on a myriad of things that come under the sustainability banner.
It has frightened a lot of people in the industry, Mr Mackay acknowledged.
“Be assured this is an opportunity,” he said.
“Safety, quality, sustainability - these are things our customers are making decisions on.
“As consumer expectations increase, they are turning more to brands to provide certainty of those things.
“Australian beef is in a unique position to be a part of this process. There is some terrific value in brands because of certainty.”
There was really no choice - this is a path the industry has to take becauses the risks of not doing so were too great, Mr Mackay explained.
“We can’t compete on price against India or South America, and increasingly against the United States,” he said.
“But we can do things they simply will never be able to achieve.”
The “promise to the customer” that is a brand develops around providing information about the product - in the case of Australian beef it will be the integrity systems that underpin the promise, provenance, quality and fit for purpose, Mr Mackay explained.
There are large market niches around the world, focussed on safety, reliability, consistency and sustainability - they are huge in parts of China and Asia, he said.
“This is not just primals but all products where the customer recognises a value proposition,” he said.
We must not allow a narrow protectionist approach to limit our thinking and our success, he argued.
A branded supply chain model will provide more sustainable returns for all, Mr Mackay believes.
“And we need to be bold,” he said.
“Why can’t we be carbon neutral and make that part of the brand we offer to the world?”