Relationships with consumers vital for Scottish red meat industry
Scotland’s red meat producers and retailers must continue to grow the relationships built during the pandemic in order to keep Scottish brands in consumers’ baskets, according to Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) board member, Louise Welsh.
Welsh, who also sits on the board of Food Standards Scotland (FSS), says emerging consumer trends, combined with the nation’s revived appreciation of where their food comes from, could provide an opportunity for Scotland’s red meat retailers to retain and build sales as consumers return to ‘normal’ buying habits.
She said: “During the pandemic, the nation started shopping differently almost overnight, many choosing to buy more locally or online to avoid the crowds. We saw a new appreciation of food and where it comes from as fear of a lack of simple food stuffs sparked a new respect for it as well as, with more time on our hands, a nation of cooks and culinary experimenters.
“My abiding memory of lockdown will be the nation’s relationship with food, and the trusted connections built with its producers and retailers whether these were over the counter or following their story on social media. These relationships are the perfect platform for those selling quality Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork to harness some of the very relevant consumer trends emerging.”
“If our primary producers have to compete with cheaper imports from other countries, the USP of meat produced in the UK is its welfare standards, and assurance schemes may become more important than ever.”
Some trends have been accelerated, such as conscious buying of sustainably-produced, local food and eating for health, immunity and nutrition, according to market commentators, while restaurant-style cooking at home has become popular as people have had time to cook from scratch or are seeking affordable luxuries in the absence of meals out and holidays. All these trends are anticipated to continue for the foreseeable future.
Welsh added: “This makes it more important than ever to keep providing a compelling experience and sharing the stories behind our food whether that is in face-to-face conversations or with storytelling through online and social channels. Scotland’s red meat ticks all of these boxes: nutritious, sustainable, local and a key component of a special meal.”
Kantar reported booming red meat sales, from mince in early lockdown, to more premium cuts from May with some butchers reporting a year’s business in just a few weeks. A recent survey, carried out by Censuswide on behalf of Scotch Lamb PGI, not only showed that 36% were buying more locally and 60% of the population still intend to buy local in the future but that 62% are more conscious of where their meat comes from and traceability.
“This is particularly reassuring as we wade through a treacly Brexit deal where there has been concern about food standards in negotiations,” says Welsh, who, in 2013, was the first female appointed to the QMS board. “If our primary producers have to compete with cheaper imports from other countries, the USP of meat produced in the UK is its welfare standards, and assurance schemes may become more important than ever. QMS celebrates 30 years of its assurance scheme this year, and, as a nation, we can be proud that what we do really well is produce good food people want to eat.”
Welsh also believes that being creative beyond the counter is crucial to maintaining consumer commitment as life returns to busy normal. “Even when price becomes key, positive and honest messages direct from the people bringing food to the table, combined with messages of quality, health and nutrition, will make the greatest impression as people choose where to spend their money.”