A new £1.5 million campaign to extol the health benefits of red meat and dairy as part of a healthy, balanced diet has been launched by AHDB. Olivia Midgley reports.
New Years are synonymous with resolutions to eat healthily after indulging over the Christmas holidays and a major new consumer facing campaign will tap into this as part of a drive to promote the nutritional benefits of red meat and dairy.
Kicking off on January 4, Eat Balanced, supported by targeted TV and social media marketing, will counter the negative messages surrounding the category by giving people ‘permission to enjoy’.
As well as pushing health messaging around the nutritional benefits red meat and dairy bring to the diet, such as B12, iodine and protein, the campaign aims to reassure consumers that British farmers produce these products to some of the highest standards in the world.
And, as well as providing a boost for people’s health, they are affordable, sustainable and taste good.
Christine Watts, AHDB’s chief marketing officer, says: “With less than 1 per cent of consumers being vegan, a staggering 98 per cent of households enjoy meat and dairy as part of their weekly diet; other brands would be delighted with that level of enjoyment.
"Our products are affordable and are produced to the highest standards, but we have almost had to apologise for it.
“We got tired of permanently listening to negativity and detraction which was unfair on the quality and calibre of the products we produce.
"And consumers are actually fed up of being told what to do, being told they cannot have certain things.”
Working with independent consumer insights specialist Kantar, AHDB found consumers wanted reassurance in the food choices they make, while at the same time seeking pleasure and enjoyment from meals.
Ms Watts added: “This campaign is about saying ‘we know 98 per cent of you buy meat and dairy, so we want to reassure you that you are making a good choice nutritionally, one which is good for your health, good for your family and you can enjoy the taste and flavour’.
“You should not feel guilty and you should not feel it is something you can be told not to have any more.” The levy board has identified three consumer groups which it sees as ‘waverers’ – those looking to reduce intake of red meat and dairy.
Susie Stannard, AHDB’s consumer insight manager, said the campaign would specifically target these groups.
“Our research has shown about one-in-five people are waverers and this is likely down to them seeing some negative news about red meat or dairy, either from an animal welfare point of view or the environment which has become a big factor in recent years.
“While our previous marketing has been around recipes and mid-week meals, we are moving away from doing that and looking instead at how we can talk to consumers about the reputation of meat and dairy.
“This is very much a long-term campaign rather than a flash in the pan. It is aimed at winning over hearts and minds and producing attitudinal shift.
“That is a harder thing to do than some of the campaigns we have done before, which have been about shifting product. We need to deliver these messages consistently over time.”
Liam Byrne, head of marketing for pork, beef and lamb, said: “Insight tells us that the Monday after the Christmas break is the time when people are more likely to listen to messages around health and the environment.
“We just do not think we would have the same impact if we waited until March.”
But Mr Byrne added this was not just about going ‘head-to-head with vegans’.
He said: “We need to behave like the market leaders we are.
“Over the next five years I would like to do for B12 what omega-3 has done for fish, so it becomes a territory space red meat and dairy can really own.”
Return on Sales
The levy board aims for a return on sales of between £6-£12 for every £1 it spends on marketing
Using focus groups and various testing methods as part of its strategy development, AHDB sought to uncover what messages would land best with consumers.
Mr Byrne said: “The campaign will focus on health and our world class sustainability and farming standards.
“We know the food choices we make are integral to our health and wellbeing, and a balanced diet is one that offers variety, nourishment and enjoyment while remaining in harmony with the environment.
“Farmers in this country are united in their ambition to bring high quality, naturally nutrient-rich produce to consumers and are continuously driving towards a carbon neutral food industry with high welfare standards at its heart.”
Ms Watts also pointed to research from the University of Surrey which analysed the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey to show that iodine intake was significantly lower in exclusive consumers of milk alternatives than cows’ milk consumers, which is essential for normal cognitive function.
Ms Watts said: “It is not responsible to persistently tell people that to have a healthy diet they should be taking supplements.
“Promoting a balanced diet, with the correct portion sizes and suggesting recipes which are both mindful of the issues with obesity in the UK and are affordable is at the heart of this messaging.
“It is also not saying a vegan diet is wrong, but it is true to say vegan alternatives are expensive and they can be highly processed and lack important nutrients a balanced diet naturally contains.”
The four statements AHDB is building its narratives around are:
Demand for red meat and dairy products soared during the coronavirus pandemic, which the AHDB team said it felt was proof the sectors have a bright future.
Ms Standard said: “While we have seen consumption levels slightly decrease in recent years, the pandemic really turned things on its head.
“We have seen a resurgence of people eating a lot more red meat and dairy and seeking different cheeses and meat products.
“It is interesting that in this time of fear that we turn back to the products we grew up with and we know and love, the products we know are good for our bodies and our health.
“Moving forwards, that shows there is a role for meat and dairy to play in the modern diet. And this campaign is about reminding people of the nutritional value of red meat and dairy.”
Livestock farmer and AHDB board and beef and lamb sector chairman Adam Quinney said farmers often felt under attack from anti-farming messages in the media, but the new website would help arm them with the facts, enabling them to have more positive discussions.
Mr Quinney said consumers were often bombarded with ‘dubious’ claims about red meat and dairy, often linking British farming methods to global averages which included other countries with ‘appalling’ standards.
He said: “Farmers should be rightly proud about what and how they produce in this country and this is a campaign which they can be proud of as well.
“Our beef and lamb stakeholders agree our marketing priorities should be around reputation.
“This is not about encouraging consumers to eat an extra steak in the week, it is about changing attitudes to diets.
“We can run promotional campaigns like we did this year, which increase sales 10:1 in terms of investment, but beef is a £1 billion market, so moving it £10 million is neither here nor there to a degree.
“However, changing consumer attitudes in a positive way towards red meat I think is far more important.”