Avoid 'one-size-fits-all' approach to reap rewards for UK farm exports, report says

The report is seen as an important step in understanding the needs of international consumers - key to exploiting post-Brexit markets
The report is seen as an important step in understanding the needs of international consumers - key to exploiting post-Brexit markets

Understanding consumer needs in different countries and avoiding a "one-size-fits-all" approach will reap rewards for UK food and farming exports.

According to AHDB’s latest edition of Horizon, understanding consumer needs in different countries is vital for the UK's post-Brexit success.

It says the UK cannot cannot rely on ‘Brand Britain’ alone to boost sales.

The new report focuses on international buying behaviours and looks at exporting from a consumer perspective.

It highlights the need for industry to monitor and adapt to the needs of each marketplace to create more opportunities.

The study included responses from more than 4,500 consumers in nine countries – from key markets in North America, Europe, Gulf States and Asia – around what motivates and drives them to choose the food they buy.

While it looked at grocery purchase habits, factors which impact buying behaviours and even assessed assurance schemes with Red Tractor, the report also went into more depth for meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables.

'British branding'

Among the key findings was that while seven out of the nine countries surveyed said ‘quality’ was the most important factor, both China and Japan stated ‘food safety’ as critical in their food choices.

Christine Watts, AHDB Chief Communication & Market Development Officer, said: “Concerns and priorities vary by market and many could benefit from tailored messaging to appeal to these different interests.

“For instance, in China and Japan food safety is critical. Communication to these markets needs to be tailored to meet the desires of consumers so they know more about the safety of the food they eat.”

The report also closely considers the impact of ‘British’ branding overseas and looks at some of the opportunities and challenges this holds in a post-Brexit world.

Steven Evans, AHDB Consumer Insight Manager and author of the report, said: “The research looked to capture the reaction to ‘Brand Britain’ and understand objectively how other countries see us.

“We found that many consumers have not had direct exposure to British food products and, therefore, have not had the opportunity to build a firm view of their qualities.

“This highlights that exposure to products and clear branding is necessary to drive awareness and build brand reputation. While this may take time, it can also be seen as a blank canvas where exporters have a great opportunity to paint a picture and develop our story in the minds of international consumers.”

Buying behaviour

Other key aspects from the report include how different sectors also have different drivers in buying behaviour.

For example, while quality was important for both meat and dairy, price featured second in the list for meat while freshness was the second highest purchase motivator in the dairy industry.

Also, promoting the same meat cuts across all countries would not be beneficial for British exporters as lifestyles, tastes and food choices differ around the world.

AHDB International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley said: “Often, what we as a British consumer perceive as a good product message will not be relevant for all export markets.

“For example, the Chinese Sunday roast is not commonplace but Dong Po Rou (braised pork belly) is. Both hold a similar association as they both use larger joints but each fit very different meal occasions.

“We also know that a Chinese consumer is comfortable to view the whole journey from farm to fork. But it would be dangerous to assume that the same approach across all export markets will result in the same sales performance.

“A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t allow for customisation and adapting to meet specific domestic demands. It is critical that British food producers don’t make assumptions that their product has the same relevance across all markets.”