ready meals

Does anyone else feel that mass-market retailers’ premium brands in the food and drink sector too often lack a genuine emotional expression of provenance and authenticity?

It is hard for retailer own-label brands to deliver stories and engage socially, but it seems that brands such as Tesco Finest meals or Waitrose ‘Menu’ are struggling to talk to shoppers emotionally and entice them with attention to detail, provenance and a love of food.

As a customer, the ‘black’ standard expression of premiumness that many brands use seems a bit done. It stands out, but when it comes to expressing a genuine, foodie passion, it needs to do so much more. These are items that people are paying extra for; they are bought by pleasure seekers looking for a bit more specialness. These consumers are far more driven by provenance, experience and quality of ingredients. Yet any messaging about the quality of the ingredients is being overpowered by designs driven by block colour and functionality.

To create standout and genuinely drive emotional engagement, provenance, authenticity, emotional layering and story telling are key. Look how Charlie Bigham’s has focused so extensively on ensuring every aspect of its premium meals are delivered via unique labelling and pack structures, layered in experience and a real foodie feel. People taste with their eyes, so Bigham’s creates anticipation of the product’s deliciousness and emphasises a discernable difference in quality and cooking experience to rival offers.

Waitrose ‘Menu’ looks like any other ready meal. Tesco Finest’s black packs may suggest ‘premium’, but they do not effectively accentuate and hero the quality, provenance or sourcing of the food. That is a shame because both Tesco’s and Waitrose’s products are carefully thought through to deliver on both quality and taste. Their pack structures could be much more evocative and help people connect with eating occasions, the authenticity of the meal provenance and the recipe experience.

Aldi and Lidl approach premiumness differently. Their premium products have very much been heroed and the packaging is not seen as the main selling point. As a result, people engage with their ranges.

It would be great to see all mass brands invest in creating emotion around their premium ranges, exploring more three-dimensional ways to layer in quality, integrity and provenance. If your brand shouts about a love of food and where it comes from, surely the brands need to reflect that and bring it to life in a way that allows consumers to feel and connect with what’s inside.

Claire Nuttall is founder of The Brand Incubator