The announcement over recent days that there has been some in-principle agreement reached about the wider use of the “True Aussie” brand in marketing Australian farm products in export (and hopefully domestic) markets is a welcome development, but there should be no misapprehension about the scale of work and effort required in order to ensure that the brand actually delivers value to Australian farmers.
The True Aussie brand was developed by Meat and Livestock Australia in order to better position Australian red-meat exports at the higher-value end of rapidly growing Asian food markets. The ‘brand’ consist of the True Aussie logo, and an underpinning narrative about the credentials of Australian meat products that bear that logo.
The reality is that the potential value of any brand lies in the story or narrative that underpins that brand. This is recognised by MLA in its positioning of the True Aussie brand for Australian beef, lamb and goat exports, but the development of the story or values that underpin that brand is really only at an embryonic stage, especially if the use of the brand is to be expanded to other products.
These issues were discussed in detail in the December 2014 edition of the Farm Policy Journal, published by the Australian Farm Institute. They were also the subject of speakers presentations at the November 2013 Australian Agriculture Roundtable conference, hosted by the Institute.
The first question that will need to be addressed by all those involved is whether the brand is to be used as a provenance brand (identifying where the product came from) or acredence brand, (identifying high quality and other desirable credentials such as the products impact on the environment, the animal welfare standards associated with the product, and even the standards associated with labour employed during its production).
If the answer is the latter – that is the True Aussie brand should be underpinned by credence values that position it as signifying quality produce – then the agriculture sector in Australia has a lot of work to do and decisions to make about the standards that will underpin the brand.
It would almost certainly mean that there is a need to develop and implement a series of standards relating to some of the important underlying credence characteristics, and to then limit the use of that brand to products from farms and processing systems that adhere to those standards. This would mean that some form of accreditation would be required – not dissimilar to the “Red Tractor” scheme that has been developed in Britain.
Whether Australian farmers and those involved in supply chains are prepared to adopt accreditation systems is an interesting question, although it should be acknowledged that many who are currently involved in supplying major supermarkets and processors are already required to undertake some form of accreditation.
The alternative, which is that the True Aussie brand would simply be a provenance brand signifying product of Australia origin, is effectively already the case with the current Australian Made logo. It is hard to see that simply replacing one logo with another would deliver any additional value for farmers, which suggests that the True Aussie brand need to be a credence brand if it is to deliver long-term value.
Other questions that will need to be addressed include the range of commodities that might be included in broadening the use of the brand. Producers of commodities such as grains, sugar, cotton and wool – all of which undergo significant processing and transformation before becoming consumer products – are unlikely to see much value in the adoption of the True Aussie brand. This suggests that the initial expansion of the brand is likely to only incorporate fresh and perhaps processed foods, and predominantly those destined for export markets.
The attitude of Australian food processors and retailers towards the wider adoption of the True Aussie brand will also be critical to its success. Many of these have made some efforts to develop their own brand or brands, and they may be reluctant to adopt a generic national brand that could potentially damage their own proprietary brand in the event of a food safety or contamination event. There is also the issue of the need to have some rationalisation of farm accreditation systems. There are already cases where farm businesses are involved in three or more quality assurance or accreditation systems, and the prospect of adopting yet another accreditation system probably fills them with dread.
All these issues will need to be resolved, and no one should be under any misapprehension that the adoption of common national branding will deliver instant returns. That said, the fact that there is at least some agreement being reached across the Australian agriculture sector about the value of this approach is a welcome first step.
This article first appeared on the Australian Farm Institute website. Click here to view original article