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Private Label Food Manufacturers – Sell the sizzle, not the sausage

Greg Wallace of Master Chef fame recently hosted ‘Inside the Factory’, a TV program looking at UK food production. The factory looked sparkling clean; the employees donned in crisp white overalls and blue hair nets. At one point Greg introduces one of the cooking staff as a technician.  Hold on, did he say…technician? 

Untouched by human hands?

The benefits of automation in food production are clear to most. But even so, surely customers ought to perceive that food is created by cooks, not robots! 

A flick through the TV channels on any night will reveal a host of cookery programs. Each fronted by a passionate, inspired chef or ‘foodie’ waxing lyrical about the ingredients and what can be created with them.

For most, food is an emotive subject. That’s why it is hard to identify with mechanised mass production. There is still a gap between what we know (mother’s home cooking) and a conveyor belt loaded with ready meals – instinctively it feels synthetic.

The art of food

Cooking on TV is usually presented as a very creative process; an art form one would say! On that basis who would you rather talk to?.. the artist who painted the picture or the person who hung it on the wall? The end result may be the same, but your perception will differ greatly depending on who you spoke with.

Food is colourful, exciting and inspiring. So why when manufactured at scale is it presented as functional and soulless? I would say any poor perception is directly due to the language surrounding the process. If it’s dry, boring and technical…

For example; Factory or kitchen? Either word can be used to describe the same facility. They’re simply miles apart in how they make you feel towards the foods produced there. This works internally as well as externally because client and consumer perceptions are a mirror of what’s going on within.

Here are two lists of words that are fundamentally saying the same thing. One list is typically used by the big private label food manufacturers, the other by the smaller Independent players. I’ll let you guess which is which:

Technical                                 Artisanal

Commodity                             Experience

Operator                                 Cook

Consumer                                Customer

…Factory                                 …Kitchen

There is a story to be told…

We recently toured a private label food manufacturing plant producing ready-meals for many of the major supermarkets. Our objective was to understand what made this company unique and different to its competitors.

The deep level of culinary skills and ingredient knowledge within the company soon revealed themselves. Managing the complicated set of recipes in production at any one time required serious expertise.

For instance, our discovery process revealed that three different cooking methods each used a separate variety of potato.  The properties of the potato types were intimately understood to bring out the best of the recipe each was in. Getting the maximum out of every ingredient is a critical part of the production process given compliance with strict food legislation constraints.

Making the invisible, visible

Most private label food manufacturers have an untold-story that goes way beyond the technical aspects of production lines and investment in plant and equipment.

It is highly likely the business will have and do engaging stuff within its processes that is different, even unique to the competition. When revealed and lined up in a row, they will raise the perception of the business to a level that a technical conversation alone simply can’t deliver.

A well-articulated story will engage the retailer and resonate with their customers.

There is a saying in advertising that goes “Sell the sizzle, not the sausage”.

I would modify it for the private label food manufacturers. “Sell the sizzle, not just the sausage”.

By | 2017-06-23T16:11:15+00:00 March 27th, 2017|Food Innovation|0 Comments

About the Author:

Valentine is a much sought-after strategic creative thinker. He founded The Finer Detail, a marketing led creative agency over 30 years ago. Valentine cut his teeth developing creative solutions for clients across a variety of sectors. As he says, once you take out the confidentiality issues, the learnings and insights gained will travel…and experience turns into expertise. Over the last 15 years his agency has specialised in the retail sector. Valentine has helped major brands such as WD-40, Asda and Costa Coffee and the private label manufacturers that supply them such as Adelie Foods, Oscar Mayer and Senoble. One of Valentine’s driving passions is the private label food industry, and his mission is to help clients move their price-based retailer relationship to the more valuable partnership space. Valentine lives with his family in a spectacular setting on the banks of the River Great Ouse in Bedfordshire.