As part of its campaign against imports of pigmeat the British Pig Executive has declared war on bacon labelling that does not make the country of origin clear. Top of its hit list are tertiary brands.
BPEX claims they are used as “flags of convenience” to sell meat not produced to retailers’ strict welfare standards.
Virtually all the major retailers operate a stated policy under which all bacon sold as own label is ‘welfare’ product. But this comes at a cost, and the allegation is that supermarkets sell cheap non-welfare product under these little-
known tertiary brands so they can maintain their welfare-only own label policy but remain competitive on price. Retailers defend the use of tertiary brands by arguing that they enable them to achieve a certain price point on cheaper imports without destroying value in their own labels or undermining the price of British pigmeat.
It’s a commercial argument with credibility, says MLC marketing director Richard Lowe. But he adds: “We are concerned some people want to have the kudos of saying all of their own label bacon is from British pigs or produced to UK welfare standards, while at the same time their bacon sales, in volume terms at least, are being driven by these tertiary brands.”
However, Sainsbury announced in July that it would remove tertiary brands. Bacon buyer Guy Hooper says: “We have a lot of confidence in the Sainsbury brand and we want to use this to boost our promotional lines. Customers see the brand as a mark of superior quality.”
But Grampian’s marketing controller for bacon Nigel Glendinning believes there is still a case for using lesser-known brands, although on a regional basis. “Our Cookstown and Hall’s brands have done well in Northern Ireland and Scotland, respectively, and we are going to launch a regional brand in the south west of England. Regionality is a growing trend and it adds a new dimension to branded bacon.”