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The 2019 challenges for Red Tractor and its members

29th Dec 2018 / By Mile Sheldon

In an important year for Red Tractor, the scheme's pork chair Mike Sheldon outlines the challenges for the scheme and its members in 2019.

Mike SheldonNone of us is in any doubt that 2019 is going to present us all with many difficult challenges. I would like to consider three challenges for Red Tractor and Red Tractor members.

Number One is the growth in scale and ambition of Red Tractor’s communications with consumers.

We know that, to generate value for Red Tractor producers, we need to influence consumers about the values wrapped up in the logo on pack, to convince them that we provide a good match for their personal values when it comes to food, and to encourage them to choose the pack with the Red Tractor logo.

This has always been our ambition, and the numbers back up the fact that, given the relatively small investment Red Tractor has been able to make in consumer communications over the years, we punch well above our weight.

However, I would argue that we can achieve much, much more, given the right scale of investment, and we absolutely have to. No one quite knows how Brexit will pan out, and under what conditions we will be trading, but one thing seems certain: competition will get harder, and we will have to shout louder and longer if we want to maintain or grow our position in the market.

It may be that, with any message including Britishness, we may be pushing at an open door, we should not hesitate to push as hard as possible, and Red Tractor offers an opportunity to do that. The challenge for Red Tractor is to come up with the right communications plan, and to win the necessary financial support from Red Tractor members to deliver the plan.

Number Two is to push through the Risk-Based approach to assessing Red Tractor members’ farms. We know that Red Tractor producers are the first to encourage us to identify the below average farms, and encourage them to up their game, and that is what the Risk-Based approach launched in November is designed to do.

We know that this will make for uncomfortable times as the spotlight is turned on your neighbour’s farm, your client’s farm, or even your own. At that point, Red Tractor risks becoming just like the football referee sending off a favourite player, amid the chants of 'You don’t know what you’re doing'.

Well, the reality is that, by being fair and determined about implementing the Risk-Based approach, amid all the difficult decisions, we will deliver real improvement in the performance of a smallish number of farms, and real improvement in the reputation of the sector overall, and this is a good thing.

Number Three is to work out the strategic direction for the Red Tractor pig standard. How do we identify what consumers really value, compared to the siren calls of special interest groups? And how do we establish a better and better fit between what consumers will actually choose to buy and what producers are able to deliver?

How do we move towards that better fit without imposing unnecessary or undeliverable cost on producers? These are difficult challenges, but one thing I do know: consumers really do want to know how animal health and welfare are protected, how food production affects the environment, how authentic and safe their food is, and how people working on farms and in abattoirs are treated.

They really do, and we will win in the market if we develop the standard to be an ever better fit with their aspirations.

Three challenges among many. Better get on with it then.