The latest Fonterra TV series featuring Richie McCaw is feel-good stuff for farmers – we understand the sentiments, the hard work and the love that goes into producing food for others to drink and eat. However, for people who are see declining water volume or water quality when they look around New Zealand, or are confronted with ugly dead-calf-in-a-glass-of-milk SAFE billboards as they sit on the motorway in Auckland’s morning traffic – they don’t buy that feel-good factor. They see a romantic attempt at persuasion.
These consumers don’t need stories – they need facts and they need science, and they need to have their concerns addressed directly – whether good, bad, or ugly. They need to know how the NZ dairy, sheep and beef sectors define sustainability, and how close we are to actually being sustainable.
Consumers need to know the environmental, social, and economic impact of the food that they eat, and the products that they buy. But I don’t think we are giving them easy access to information: Google “How much water does it take to produce 1 litre of milk in NZ” and there are only two results – one a science blog (which took me on an informative 2 hour diversion through a whole heap of articles, thanks sciblogs.co.nz), the other was vegans.co.nz. Worse, ask the same question regarding per kg of beef and there was not a single result. Not a single result! The feel-good stories are a waste of time if you can’t back them up with easily accessed information.
We don’t need New Zealanders to buy our product, we can sell it anywhere. So it could be easy to not have a significant domestic marketing budget. However the long-term result is a population that doesn’t understand dairy, sheep or beef farming in NZ, the attributes that differentiate it from other producers, how and why different processes happen on and off farm, and the overall importance to our country – providing the perfect opportunity for activist groups who have the ultimate aim that there is no animals farmed for milk, meat or wool in New Zealand.
And that’s the reason why its so important to invest in our domestic market. Because the more a New Zealander understands about how we produce our products, the better their peer-to-peer influence can sell our product to the world.
Internationally, local influencers are of vital importance to selling our product – Michelle Tam (Nom Nom Paleo) espousing about the qualities of NZ grass-fed meat is worth 100 times the cost of a BLNZ sponsored post on Facebook. However, a Kiwi that understands and can confidently talk about our primary products with knowledge and passion is worth their weight in grass-fed antibiotic and HGP free beef.
But we’re not going to get that endorsement if we don’t confront the realities of production head on. My rural-based brother and sister-in-law have a real dislike for irrigation pivots in the South Island, and the effect they think that irrigation has had on river flow volumes and quality, however I don’t have the information to have a really meaningful discussion with them about it. When I reassure a friend that she can buy NZ red meat from her supermarket with confidence, she points out that the label isn’t clearly telling her that the meat she is buying is antibiotic and HGP free and grass-fed. And she wants to know that if HGP use is supposedly so low, why do we have it in NZ at all? And I want to know too.
Lets get some good information and science out there and easily access by farmers and non-farmers alike. The biggest group of influential marketers we have are New Zealanders, lets make it easy for them.