The phrase ‘By appointment to Her Majesty the Queen’ is attached to dozens of companies in the food industry - from suppliers of condiments to supermarkets - as is another royal badge, the Queen’s Award for Enterprise. But does being given the royal thumbs up count for anything these days?
Steve Brice, acting secretary of the Queen’s Awards Office, believes so. “A Queen’s Award is more than just a prestigious honour - it also brings genuine business benefits to winning companies,” he says. Christopher Pickup, secretary of the Royal Warrant Holders Association, agrees: “We typically receive 50-60 applications from companies every year, so clearly the marketplace feels it is an accolade worth displaying. The benefits have not been measured, but it’s our experience that companies feel it means something, particularly if they export or retail to overseas visitors. It signals that the company is rather special and, in many cases, it means a lot to the workforce as well.”
The commercial benefits are difficult to measure. But a recent survey of Queen’s Award winners revealed that 68% of businesses enjoyed increased recognition in the UK while 49% said they now had greater recognition overseas; 88% said being able to use the awards emblems in marketing brought significant benefits, while more than 40% said an award had given them an edge over competitors and 20% said it had a direct effect on the bottom line by bringing in new business. But the biggest boost is often to staff morale and pride in the company, experienced by 90% of winners.
Take cereal manufacturer Weetabix. The company has won the Queen’s Award for International Trade on four occasions, in 1974, 1991, 1996 and 2004, and it also holds Royal Warrants from the Queen and the Prince of Wales.
Its 2004 Queen’s Award was given for continuous achievement over the past six years, when exports grew by 45% and averaged 16% of total sales. Commercial director Bill Humes says Weetabix entered the Queen’s Awards scheme to draw attention to its annual export growth. “We believe it will again prove extremely valuable to the company - both internally and externally. In sharing the announcement with our staff and suppliers we have further engendered the feeling of pride and achievement. In telling our distributors and customers, we have underlined our ongoing commitment to growing our exports.”
HP Foods holds three royal warrants. Two are for HP Sauce, one from the Queen and the other from the Queen Mother, which will expire in 2007, five years after her death. The third is to supply the Queen’s household with its Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce.
Company secretary Aubrey Desouza says that being granted a Royal Warrant does not necessarily mean Ma’am is a personal fan of your product. While he is not convinced that using the Royal Arms on the label directly influences sales, there are tangible benefits from the appointment, he says. “The warrants represent the quintessential Englishness of the products, particularly in exports. It’s not used as a point of difference, but is a sign of prestige. If we took it off our products I couldn’t say whether sales would drop.”
Royal Warrants have been granted since the 15th century, and are now given to companies that have supplied goods or services to the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, or the Prince of Wales for at least five years.
About 800 companies hold a Royal Warrant, including Cadbury, Findus, Twinings, HP, Nestlé and Tate & Lyle.
The badge is confirmation of the royals’ trading relationship with a preferred supplier, which might have been established by an approach from the royal household or the company marketing directly to it.
Not every enterprise that applies for a warrant succeeds. The quality of the goods and the service needs to be a cut above the rest and the badge can be lost if quality slips or the product or service is no longer required.
When a company is granted a Royal Warrant, it is allowed to use the Royal Arms of the grantor in its premises, on goods and packaging, in advertising, and on stationery and vehicles, albeit within closely defined parameters.
Queen’s Awards, on the other hand, are a badge of commercial success. The Queen’s Award for Enterprise,for example, is given each year to UK businesses that demonstrate excellence in international trade, innovation or sustainable development and winners are encouraged to make the most of media coverage and to use the emblem as a sales and marketing tool.
Awards are presented by the Lord Lieutenant of the county where the business is based.
The Queen also entertains award-winning businesses at a special reception held at Buckingham Palace.