How would you communicate the benefits of choosing higher welfare in a convincing manner to the average shopper who is bombarded daily with an array of labels, prices, and choices so that they would be able to make an informed choice?
This is a question that the Compassion Food Business team set out to explore. Our aim is to find the most motivating way of communicating the benefit to consumers of improved animal welfare and to make this a positive driver of choice when purchasing eggs, chicken, dairy or pork.
Who did we target?
The methodology aimed to be as objective as possible and the sample chosen were neither pro/anti animal welfare or adversely/not affected at all from the financial crisis. The 6 consumer groups were comprised of 6-8 men and women BC1/C2/D aged 30 to 60, with families, who were all meat eaters and all responsible for the family shopping. Group sessions were unprompted (based on their existing knowledge) and were conducted in the South (Cheam), the North (Sheffield) and London (Wimbledon)) in autumn 2010.
What did we cover?
We worked with the groups on the following:
- Querying current awareness of the issues by species.
- Looking at a selection of the current food standards and knowledge around what standards they represent.
- Group members explored the relationship between quality and welfare using their existing knowledge.
- Looking at barriers around purchasing higher welfare.
- Uncovering the most motivating language and an opportunity for supermarkets.
Most Motivating Language:
For all participants, the biggest ‘top of mind’ issue when considering welfare is ‘freedom to move about’. This is driven by a general awareness of confinement of chickens and in some cases, pigs. Closely allied to this, and when thinking about the idea of ‘how better cared for animals would be better for you’, is the residual impression that animals “are not dosed up with chemicals”. ‘We are what we eat’ is a well understood idea.
Participants were most interested in and receptive to a health message:
- because this taps into existing residual memories from well publicised food scares and potential danger to human health.
- because the link between looking after the animals and it being better (healthier) for you is a credible one “it makes sense that if they are treated better, their meat will be healthier because they are healthier and that’s got to be better for you”.
Taste is a secondary benefit and many believe taste, like quality, is already delivered.
Health resonated with the group much more powerfully as the benefit of better standards of animal welfare. It was relatively easy to make a clear and positive link in people’s minds between the way an animal lived naturally being of benefit to the health of both the animal and the consumer (less stress, less disease).
What works much less well is anything that anchors the benefit or reasons to believe this idea to a negative (production systems, disease, food poisoning) because this is unappetising and pushes people away.
Why are we doing this?
A key part of our current and future relationships with food businesses is to build a case for competitive advantage by communicating welfare in a way that resonates with consumers, with the aim of turning welfare into an active choice. Whilst consumers may sympathise with our welfare objectives, this can so easily become a distant or secondary consideration when faced with an array of choices at differing price points at the point of purchase.
We are therefore seeking to connect more directly with consumers in a way that matches our values with their own.
The higher margins possible on higher welfare items alone (not to mention the benefits to brand and the possibilities for new customers) is a strong commercial incentive to shift to broadening the messages used to promote higher welfare food and hopefully these insights can facilitate that shift.