Future success for EU poultry companies requires focus on consumer trends, quality

Disease-control methods such as vaccination and other tools that reduce antibiotic usage and nurture the consumer's view of poultry meat as a safe, high quality and socially conscious product will contribute to the success of European poultry companies in the future, according to a leading poultry consultant and strategist.

"Today's consumer wants to know what he eats, from where it came and how it was produced. He wants assurance that what he eats is safe for his health and the environment, that it is fair to the manpower that produced it and that the meat comes from animals that are well cared for and healthy," said Dr. Osler Desouzart, a Brazil-based food-industry analyst who helps poultry companies with marketing and planning through his company OD Consulting.

Desouzart noted that this trend is particularly gaining strength in Europe. "European producers should concentrate in differentiated quality and new values of the consumer, among which I would say that regional and local values are important. More and more, the issue of 'landen', 'paeso','terroir' and 'from home' is perceived by the consumer as a value," Desouzart added.

These trends are initiating changes ranging from the use of more "natural" diets in poultry feed to reduced housing density for birds, he added, emphasizing that poultry companies that ignore "His Almighty Excellency, The Consumer" will be doomed to fail.

Traits of successful companies

Desouzart: 'European producers should concentrate on differentiated quality and new values.'

During the course of his work, Desouzart has found that the successful poultry companies of today consider quality an intrinsic value of the whole company. They have a permanent improvement system in place and are

never happy with the status quo. Their strategy reflects where they want to be in 10 years and provides a detailed, quantified and dated plan for the next 3 years. They base decisions on data and facts.

The primary focus of successful poultry companies is on the consumer rather than production. They have "win-win" relationships with their clients and suppliers, he said. Granted, cutting costs is important, but "creating value is essential," he said. A lower price does not necessarily mean better value. Value goes handin- hand with quality, which must start at the beginning.

"A premium chicken sold at a premium price cannot be made... with second- grade feed, with the lots managed by untrained people and with the 'cost dictatorship' determining that the least expensive ingredients should always be used," he said.

"Quality begins at the beginning, but has to go all the way to the end. There is no 'partial' quality, or quality just in parts of the process, by part of the departments and part of the time," Desouzart said.

'Today's consumer wants to know what he eats, from where it came and how it was produced. He wants assurance that what he eats is safe for his health and the environment' "My point is that if European producers try to fight the imports with their unbeatable prices and tailor-made bulletproof productions that resist any quality assurance audit, they shall fail. If they think that they can entrench behind protectionism, they are doomed."

Desouzart said that marketing "fresh" poultry might be one way to compete, but he warned producers that they should be prepared to fight again in 20 years because it's only a matter of time before technology makes it possible for foreign suppliers to sell fresh poultry as well.

"The only thing that the invaders cannot obtain is the level of marketing knowledge and understanding that can only come from working in that market," he said. "Furthermore, foreign producers can't claim that their product is locally produced."

Branding denotes confidence

'Today's consumer wants to know what he eats, from where it came and how it was produced. He wants assurance that what he eats is safe for his health and the environment'


Another trait common among successful poultry companies is branding.

"There are no leaders without a brand," and to consumers, a brand denotes confidence, assurance, reliability, recognition, comfort, feeling at home and safety, he said.

The basis for branding is "defined and established quality." Consumers are prepared to pay for this personal reassurance, "provided you do not forget that 'accessibility' is a component of quality," Desouzart continued.

"A French consumer will argue for days that a "poulet de Bresse" is superior to any other broiler in the world, even if you can induce him to error in a blind test," Desouzart explained. "But why does he pay up to CHF 24,00 per kg for the chicken produced in Bresse? Because of its reputation, which dates back to Louis XIV. "So sell uniqueness and reputation," he added, "because wealthy consumers are not buying meat or protein. Above all, they are buying pleasure." Desouzart emphasized that while positive connotations of a brand can take decades to build, they can take nanoseconds to be lost. "His Majesty the consumer seldom forgets or forgives," he quipped.

Desouzart warned mainstream European poultry producers to abandon any notions they may have about feeding the world's hungry with lowcost meat, which could lead to defeat as underdeveloped countries increasingly supply inexpensive poultry for consumers in their countries. Mainstream producers, Desouzart said, need to stay focused on producing quality meat with added value for local markets.

In fact, "Your local market knowledge, its idiosyncrasies and consumer values may be the best ally that you have to survive," he said.

Source: Cocciforum issue 14
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