Product Differentiation and Access to MarketsA Stakeholder perspective of Welsh Lamb

Authors Organisations
Type Paper
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventInstitute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship - Europa Hotel, Belfast, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Duration: 08 Nov 201709 Nov 2017

Conference

ConferenceInstitute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship
CountryUnited Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
CityBelfast
Period08 Nov 201709 Nov 2017
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Abstract

Objectives

The aim of this study was to analyse the differentiation strategy of Welsh Lamb and understand the role of different stakeholders in providing differentiation factors. The effect of country-of-origin on agri-food purchasing intensions is an increasingly common theme in literature, while quality becomes an inadequate differentiator in an advancing competitive marketplace. The focus of this paper is on how distinctive product characteristics are used to market Welsh Lamb and provide a competitive advantage whilst also accessing markets. The primary focus of the research is to understand the role of different stakeholders, their control and integration, and how marketing activities are valued by producers. Further, the paper addresses wider questions of the use of branding and traceability to support marketing activities.

Prior Work

Agricultural products face environmental and social challenges; policy reforms as well as sustained pressure on income levels. Further pressures come from the Globalisation of supply chains and increasing pressures from price conscious consumers along with greater demand for white meat. This was true before the result of the 2016 UK referendum on membership of the European Union; however, the onset of Brexit brings further challenges to access markets. Large meat producing countries such as Australia and New Zealand compete on a low costs strategy having economies of scale. Welsh farmers on a whole are small-scaled and must therefore differentiate their produce to compete. Welsh Lamb is the cornerstone of the Welsh economy, a national symbol worth £154.7m in 2013, a productive and valuable industry (Alston, 2014). The greatest impact of a product’s success lies in the post-production phase, through branding and marketing strategies employed (Power and Hauge, 2008).

The global nature of the market-place demonstrates the increasing importance of evaluating marketing operations and collaboration in supply-chains to continuously improve brand position as competitiveness advances. Welsh Lamb is marketed as a premium product, ‘typically of excellent quality, highly priced, selectively distributed through the highest quality channels and advertised parsimoniously’ (Quelsh, 1987).

Stakeholders play a key role in providing differentiation factors for Welsh lamb across all stages of the supply chain, including production methods and branding. There has been criticism that these attributes are not fully communicated in marketing strategies, despite Welsh Lamb possessing a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status. There is a perceived lack of cooperation along the value change. While many studies focus on consumer perspectives of marketing strategies (Anselmsson et al., 2014; Bohlen, 2009 et al., 2009; Furnols et al., 2011; Godey et al., 2012) this research is concerned with producers’ perspectives of marketing initiatives in the context of Welsh Lamb.




Approach

The research utilises a mixed methodological approach triangulating data gathered from a survey of lamb producers (n=112) located in North-East Wales and semi-structured interviews (n=6) of industry stakeholders. The interviews obtained a purposeful sample, selecting professionals possessing in-depth knowledge of the central phenomenon. Analysis was conducted on a thematic basis. The quantitative phase adopted an equivalent sampling technique to obtain survey responses, all producers retaining an equal probability of inclusion. The ‘random walk process’ was utilised questioning every fourth passer-by, or the closest to, until no further responses could be collected (Bryman, 2008). Analysis was conducted using chi-square(x²) and t-tests.


Results

The paper identifies a lack of coordination and poor communication of marketing strategies. The results highlight that superior taste and consistent quality emerged as the dominant Welsh Lamb differentiating qualities and opportunities to capitalise upon production-methods. Producers question the effectiveness of their value-proposition; undertaking productive promotional strategies nevertheless, requiring re-prioritising, subject to budget constraints. Results varied upon awareness, opinions and roles. One vital element in assisting marketing opportunities is product information and traceability. The study concludes that there is a requirement to highlight strategic priorities by incorporating intensifying co-operation with live-markets, increasing value-chain integration to advance correspondence, incorporating vets, advancing quality, and moreover identifying structured role responsibilities to improve brand performance.

Implications

How agricultural based enterprises communicate their differentiation with the end user is key in increasing demand and accessing markets. There is significant opportunity to communicate with the consumer and inform them of the practices taking place, particularly in relation to the protected PGI status, and farm assurance status of the product. Threats are ever-present through misinformation, competition, consumer shifts and a general lack of awareness. The wider benefits of stakeholder engagement and integration should spill over into the wider rural economy and beyond.

Value

This paper brings an insight into an integrated approach to product differentiation. The changing landscape of agricultural policy will place further pressure on value-added activities and marketing. With the event of an UK exit from the European Union and single market, the paper raises important implications for marketing approaches that might seek to promote products to new markets whilst maintaining demand in existing markets. A successful welsh red-meat industry has a valuable role in the future management of the environment and sustainable use of Wales’ natural resources.