Premium is as much about clear communication around brand values as it is about exceptional quality.
Today, premium means more than simply exceptional quality, say Ann Grier and Phia Folkes, co-founders of The Seed Group, a marketing and communications agency for farm and food brands.
Consumers want products with clear provenance and which are sustainably produced and ethically-sourced, and they want to understand where their food comes from, the people who make it and the impact they can have through their purchasing.
This means well-communicated marketing around higher standards will definitely get consumer attention.
Embrace the power of storytelling – for many emerging and challenger brands, a strong digital strategy will be the key to success.
British farmers and producers are extremely well placed to deliver messages around transparency and ethics.
Communications should be focused on sustainable practices, land management, high animal welfare and a clear and transparent food chain – all of which will endear them to the new conscious consumer.
Do not assume the premium product sector just attracts an older and wealthier demographic.
Millennials are, in most cases, the key consumer of premium products.
They are the first generation to grow up online and now they are out-earning baby boomers.
Gen Z is not far behind and today’s teens are fast defining the way the family shops as they demand a more conscious lifestyle – even if they are not paying for it.
Assess the market. Who else is out there, who is your consumer and what will make you stand out? How do you want to scale? Is this a side business or is this your future?
How you will balance the needs of a growing brand with your day-to-day work is worth considering.
One important element is your retail distribution.
Working out your sales and marketing strategy early will help inform your cost model and not leave you squeezed further down the line – planning is key.
Calon Wen is an organic dairy farmers’ co-operative in Wales, with 22 members.
It has 34 branded dairy products, which it sells to major premium retailers, such as Ocado, Whole Foods and Planet Organic, and exports to the Middle East and Asia.
With premium, everything starts with creating a quality, enjoyable product, and this high standard should follow through to the farm, says Stuart McNally, Calon Wen’s sales manager.
“Everything we do is around sustainability and high welfare,” he adds.
“Opportunities in this area are increasing – we do a lot of carbon capture, we’ve got two anaerobic digestors, and we’re going to be carbon-footprinting our product and seeking ways to reduce carbon emissions.
“It’s about relaying that message – not all dairy is bad.
There are definitely things farmers can relate with short, sharp phrasing to draw attention to the good things we do.” Premium brands come under added scrutiny, says Mr McNally, so it is important any claims are backed up by data and science.
You should also understand your customer, keep on top of changing trends and adapt accordingly.
Calon Wen pays for market research and uses consumer focus groups.
Recently, it found customers did not relate ‘organic’ to welfare as much as ‘freerange’.
So ‘free-range, naturally’ has been added to packaging.
Mr McNally says: “Start with the product, don’t cut corners on quality.
Really understand what your branding conveys – what does it mean to consumers? Use data and information to drive your decisions.
Spend what you can on packaging, then in-store marketing, then wider public marketing.” Chasing a listing with major retailers can be a mistake new premium brands make, he says.
“As a company you have to consider – do you have the capacity to deliver, the marketing and the distribution?” Premium brands should also consider whether being listed in a major supermarket is compatible with the exclusivity aspect of their brand.
“Gladly for Calon Wen we do operate in multiple channels as a premium brand.”