Waitrose, Tesco, trust and horse burgers

Horses wouldn't be served at Waitrose, because we trust them and it's in their values
Horses wouldn’t be served at Waitrose, because we trust them and it’s in their values

I did a workshop at Nottingham Trent University yesterday and one of the key points I wanted to get across was brands who work with very focussed brand values have clearer marketing messages. More than this, they have clearer business propositions and it would seem to me that they are ultimately more successful as businesses too.

Take two companies, Tesco and Waitrose.

Tesco brands says ‘Every little helps’. What this says to me is that they chip away and chip away at every tiny little cost to try and drive the price down to one that is almost unsustainable by the supplier. I’m not saying I agree with them throwing a horse in with the beef to make a value burger, but I do think it may have de-specced the product to such a degree they just needed to add the protein to get them to the 63% meat content that their recipe demands (which is higher than Birds Eye’s Value burgers 45% meat!), so really, what do we expect?

A horse didn’t just fall into that beef vat by accident. Someone threw it in, knowing they needed to add some cheap meat to make up the weight of their consignment. That’s supplier desperation in action.

Waitrose work on the core brand value of ‘Trust” and for me, this comes trough everywhere. I just don’t believe they would buy their meat on the open market, without knowing where it came from. I trust them. For me, they have almost become curators of good food choice. If they sell it, then we know it’s going to be pretty good – certainly for supermarket food and we can be pretty sure it won’t contain horse.

It’s too easy to take pot shots at the giant that is Tesco, but they deserve it in this case. Their values are wrong and too many of us care about what we eat for them to remain as the force they are now. They need to change their values, change their brand behaviour to be a little more loveable and change the way they treat their suppliers. Or, they’re off……

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5 thoughts on “Waitrose, Tesco, trust and horse burgers

  1. I agree with a lot of what you say, it isn’t a shock that super cheap burgers come at a price. But for me the saddest thing about this story is how Tesco is treating its suppliers; and no doubt they’ll be blamed for delivering what was demanded.

    But whether Tesco can continue as they have, maybe you’re right and they’ll go the way of the dodo, but I really can’t see that happening for a long time. Tesco has trained us to expect cheap food, no questions asked, and people are buying it (in every sense of the word).

    Some can’t afford to do otherwise, some don’t care, but realistically if the revolution you predict really was that likely, consumers would already be voting with their wallets. I’m sure some people will sit up and take note, but I don’t believe this will provoke a mass exodus. At least, not for a while…

    1. Katy, thanks for your comment. i guess you’re right that there won’t come a revolution, but I genuinely believe there will be a slow shift away from some of their practices. It is the suppliers that are being hardest hit by all of the supermarkets. They literally have to comply to survive. I stopped buying Tesco sandwiches a little while ago because they are in the main, disgusting, full of salt and unhealthy. It doesn’t take many of me to stopping using them fr them to start noticing.

      The cynic in me says that what they will do is a new ‘overpriced’ range that will taste as good as food used to be even a few years ago and it will be marketed as new and ethical. What it will actually be is normal food, made like it was a few years ago.

  2. Waitrose don’t brand themselves on ‘value’ because they can’t. The public know they’re the most expensive supermarket in the country.

    Tesco and Waitrose use their respective branding to satisfy very different market requirements.
    Bear in mind Tesco are competing against Asda & Morrisons in a price war. You won’t get many consumers switching their weekly shop from Tesco to Waitrose based on them using ‘Trust’ in their straplines.

    1. Danny. I agree with your sentiment, but I think you are misunderstanding my belief in brand values. I would never advocate a strapline, but an ethos.

      An organisational value has to be less glib than a strapline, it has to get into every decision at every level.

      Just because you are competing on price with others, doesn’t mean you have to serve them dangerous shitty food that isn’t what they paid for. if I paid for beef (even if it was only 63% beef), I would be a bit miffed to say the least to get horse. Tesco are taking risks with our lives in search of profit. I personally won’t shop there any more.

      I don’t do my weekly shop in Waitrose and never will, It’s mostly Morrisons, but I do sometimes pay extra for the things I value and buy local, where I can.

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