Creating a market
A Bernard Matthews case study

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Page 3: Product range

There are a number of stages in the development of a new product:

  • IDEAS - the creative process of innovation/brainstorming
  • SELECTION - the screening and evaluation of the ideas/ selection of one
  • ANALYSIS - examination of the idea with respect to all the internal functional areas of the firm
  • TECHNICAL - taking the idea and designing both the
  • DEVELOPMENT - product and manufacturing processes
  • TESTING - test marketing/ market research
  • PRODUCTION AND LAUNCH - selling to the public
  • FEEDBACK - collecting evidence and reactions to feedback to all stages

Product development is by no means easy. It is hoped that combining two or more product lines will be more efficient, a synergy effect. However creating a broad product range can be extremely expensive and risky – the vast majority of all new products fail, even those from well-established firms.

Initial market research did not look at all favourable, suggesting that consumers were not really looking for a branded manufacturer in this market. Mintel, the independent market research agency investigated the sliced meats market in 1989 and decided that it was stagnant,

“with few manufacturers making a serious effort to stimulate the market by new product introductions.”

The British consumer was thought to lack adventurousness and that this was unlikely to change in the future. However, the research did highlight the emphasis placed by the consumer on quality. This was seized on by Bernard Matthews Plc, giving it the confidence to try to create a market for the products. Quality was to be central to the marketing strategy, the key to building up consumer confidence and loyalty. Further market research revealed that consumers judged cooked meats by three criteria:

  1. Visual appearance - its shape, colour, texture, fat and wetness.
  2. Quality -with the price considered to be the main differentiating factor. i.e. a relatively high price must mean higher quality.
  3. Packaging - the more visible the meat is, the better the product is perceived to be.

Despite gloomy forecasts, Bernard Matthews Plc firmly believed it had identified a consumer need and was confident that it could satisfy this need successfully. However, Bernard Matthews Plc was not the first to identify these opportunities; other manufacturers had been trying to break into this market, but with little success. There are technical difficulties in slicing and pre-packing cooked meat, in particular the risk of bacteriological infection at any stage. Other firms had tried to overcome these by cooking the meat in a bag and selling these to the supermarkets whole for them to slice. For the supermarket, however, this means additional labour and packaging costs and, once sliced, the meat has a short shelf life. Wastage can therefore become extremely costly as consumers will not buy unless the meat looks at its very best. Bernard Matthews Plc believed it had the expertise and the technology to overcome these problems.

Bernard Matthews | Creating a market