Page 4: Innovation
Bernard Matthews Plc is recognised throughout the food industry as an innovator. It carried out extensive market research, remodelling the product whenever it was deemed necessary. Key to the company’s success was the construction of a ‘high risk/low risk’ state of the art factory, using highly efficient automated systems to produce to the highest possible specifications. Bernard Matthews Plc uses a Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points system (HACCP), which enables it to assess the risk of contamination at every stage in the production process.
Potential hazards, whether they be micro biological, physical or chemical, can be identified and avoided using very detailed codes of practice. Highly sophisticated air-filtering systems were installed to reduce contamination risks. These changes could only be implemented with the full co-operation and involvement of all the relevant personnel in order to satisfy a fundamental company belief in Total Quality Management. In order to achieve these quality objectives and work to the HACCP system, detailed studies of each stage in the production process have been carried out and are constantly reviewed and updated. All staff receive extensive training, pass the Food Hygiene Certificate and undergo regular health screening. At no point does the raw meat come into contact, or even close proximity to the cooked meats. All suppliers of raw materials, including packaging and meat, have to undergo regular quality auditing of their production facilities by fully qualified Bernard Matthews Plc personnel to ensure that the rigorous standards are met. By these procedures, Bernard Matthews Plc can be assured that every single product, at every single production stage has gone through every possible safety check, surpassing all the criteria laid down in the Food Safety Act 1990 and the more recent Pennington Report. This commitment to quality at the production stage gives Bernard Matthews’ prepacked meat products a shelf life of up to 21 days – a considerable advantage over its competitors. The technology saves time and effort, wastage and most importantly therefore, cost.
Investment in marketing
Of critical importance to the success of any product development strategy is the investment in marketing. Bernard Matthews Plc accepted that, although it had a well-known brand name, it had no credibility in the cooked meats market in 1992 and consequently, had to re-examine all aspects of the marketing mix. Promotional activities included a two year consumer press campaign, production of two television commercials and the placement of advertisements in supermarket magazines and newspapers. Different techniques of merchandising were employed; in-store presentations and other point of sale materials were provided and particular attention was paid to the packaging to reinforce the brand image, using colour and bold flashes. Pricing had to be carefully considered given the consumers’ perception that the price provided a significant indication of quality.
Bernard Matthews Plc recognised the importance of creating a brand name and a brand identity. This can be a vital part of a firm’s marketing strategy, giving a competitive edge. Multiple product branding should allow the strengths of one product to influence consumers’ perceptions of another, enabling other products to be introduced under the brand name umbrella. The objective is to create brand loyalty amongst consumers to encourage repeat purchases of established products and to try new ones. In the supermarket environment, where the consumer may be faced with a very wide choice of products and purchase decisions are made rapidly, it is important to differentiate the firm’s product from the others nearby. Branding may also give the firm greater flexibility in its pricing strategy. Consumers may be prepared to pay a price premium for a branded product, particularly when the price is perceived to be an indication of quality. The first television advertisements, which appeared in the early 1980s, concentrated on the founder’s personality and the reinforcement of the brand using catch lines. The packaging of all Bernard Matthews products emphasises the brand identity, carrying the easily recognisable gold quality seal printed on each label. The cooked meats are sold in clear packs to allow the consumer to inspect the quality of the meat. These reflect lessons learnt from the extensive market research carried out by the company.