Blame the BRANDS for flogging a dead horse

Ahhh...Bisto!

Ahhh!..Bisto!

It’s facinating how faith in British institutions is collapsing. One by one, like a row of dominos, British institutions are revealing themselves to be greedy, amoral and corrupt. The bankers of course (we all hate the bankers), the politicians fiddling their expenses, the press tapping our phones and the police forging documents and making false statements.

Now it is the turn of the food companies to demonstrate their complacency and disregard for their core business as #horsegate dominates the twittersphere. First a little horse DNA was found in beef burgers, then one type of burger at Tesco was found to consist of 29% horse meat and now Findus beef lasagne has been found to be 100% horse meat.

The cause is said to be an overcomplicated supply chain. In corporate Britain, the farmer and the supermarket are linked by a plethora of abattoirs  trading companies, agents and futures dealers. It’s so complicated that the retailers don’t know what they’re selling. So who’s to blame?

The last I heard the politician were passing the buck to shady criminal gangs in eastern Europe. Hmmm….could be. It’s possible that foreign criminals are a link in the supply chain but that’s a cop out. The real question is why, supposedly legitimate, British food companies are dealing with foreign criminals?

The real blame for #horsegate lies firmly with the brands.

In the idiot world of the 21st century, retail sales are dominated by marketing and the key to marketing is branding. The brands seek to control their public image. BMW tell us that their cars are reliable, powerful and technically sophisticated, Louis Vuiton tells us they make nice bags and the major food brands tell us that their food is quick, delicious and nutritious. The goal of their marketing is to gain our trust – and they succeed, we trust them. We trust the food brands to ensure that the products which we buy are as described. We trust that we will get an fair deal. Obviously their marketing has been projecting a false image.

It’s mind boggling! Did the people who make the lasagne not notice that this was not beef? Are they so ignorant of food and so bereft of cooking skills that they can’t tell horse from beef? If they can’t even put the right animal into their food products then this calls into question the quality control of their entire operation. If the meat is horse rather than beef, can we trust that the milk is being pasteurised or that free range eggs are not from caged birds?

Wikipedia states: “Brand is the personality that identifies a product, service or company…and how it relates to key constituencies: customers, staff, partners, investors etc”. It is the brands with which the public have the relationship and it is the brands which we trust. The creation of trust might be said to be the raison d’etre of a brand. If the brands now pass the blame to their suppliers then their brand names becomes worthless. If Tesco don’t know what is in their products then we may as well buy any old burgers.

In an overly commercialised world this scandal may be an unwelcome but useful wake up call. In the short term the high street butchers will gain from #horsegate but it is the responsibility of the major food brands to get their supply chains under control. They should spend more time on intrinsic quality and less on marketing.

st malo beach

St Malo Beach

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