Significant opportunities for New Zealand food manufacturers are being missed, according to the report from Lincoln University in Christchurch, due to a failure to communicate with consumers.
Having a visible label and a good relationship with buyers could help to improve the situation, as well as communicate the ‘credence’ attributes of products – those non-tangible factors such as Fairtrade and animal welfare, which consumers believe are inherent in a particular product.
Respondents in the study said the lack of a brand and the absence of a long-term relationship with the partners in the market were the key constraints in communicating credence attributes to consumers, according to one of the report’s authors, Nic Lees, the university’s agribusiness and food marketing programme director.
Product labelling is he most important method of communicating those credence attributes to consumers, explained the report, but in overseas markets identification of the New Zealand provenance is often watered down through the distribution channel, where products get further processed, repackaged and rebranded, or are used as an ingredient in another food product.
"As a result, a large percentage of New Zealand food exports do not have New Zealand origin identification or branding at point of purchase. Consequently, New Zealand-specific credence attributes get lost," said Lees.
Most of New Zealand’s beef and dairy exports are unbranded commodities that enter the manufacturing process as raw materials for processed products, he added.
Similarly, lamb and venison exports from New Zealand enter the foodservice sector and are often not identified as being of New Zealand origin.
However, some products from New Zealand have been highly successful in communicating their attributes to consumers, said Lees, such as kiwi fruit, wine and some dairy brands.
"These products demonstrate it is possible to capture a significant consumer premium for quality attributes that incorporate both the experience and credence attributes valued by consumers. These brands were able to become an effective quality cue or search quality attribute for consumers."