Tesco has re-branded some of of their meat and produce products with a new range of “farm” names. The controversy is that the “farm” names used are either completely fabricated or are derived from a farm that has nothing to do with the product. The seven new brands consist of produce, beef, and poultry. This change in marketing was implemented in hopes to improve consumers’ perception of the quality and freshness of their products.

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This marketing practice isn’t unique to Tesco, considering Target has been doing something similar with the Archer Farms brand. European supermarket Aldi has been doing the same with their Ashfield brand. Supermarket companies have learned that the consumers associate the word “farm” with quality and freshness. “…retail consultant Alison Pike said that the new branding was well positioned. The word ‘farm’ will give a perception of quality and a perception of provenance for the product itself.” (Marketing Magazine) For Tesco, this change was directly attributed to the fact that their store brand products were known for their poor quality resulting in customers to avoid them. “Bill Grimsey, … who worked for Tesco in the 1980s as its first customer services director, said that improving the perception of value was a particular challenge in fresh food…” (Marketing Magazine) This negative perception put pressure on Tesco to change their methods. “… the policy comes as supermarkets are under increasing pressure to improve transparency and provide information about where its food comes from.” (Independent)

The Power of the Word “Farms” in Brands

While some of the names are completely made up, a few are real farms and businesses. The owner of Boswell Farm, which supplies holiday cottages, is outraged that Tesco used their name to label their beef selection. Owner Linda Dillon stated that, “I am horrified by this. I run three businesses all of which would be impacted if I had a cattle farm here. People wouldn’t wanted to come here if it was surrounded by cattle because of the noise and the smell.” (Metro) Likewise, Willow Farm confirmed that they don’t sell chicken. But the typical consumer doesn’t notice the product’s authenticity. Retail consultant Alison Pike stated that, “… shoppers would not be deterred by the made-up names being used. It’s just a name, just a brand name, she said. They could use the name of a real farm – but would the customer know? No.” (Marketing Magazine) So as long as consumers see a brand that has “farm” in their name they trust it is high quality and they won’t investigate if the brand is actually from where it claims to be from.

Recent studies have shown that this approach isn’t going to be effective much longer. Consumers are wanting to be more informed about the source of their products and will be alarmed and less likely to purchase something that claims its sourced from somewhere its not. A recent study by Deloitte consulting found new purchasing influences including social impact which, “… relates to local sourcing, sustainability, animal welfare and fair treatment of employees.” (Food Business News) So if companies lie about the sourcing of the product consumers are less likely to purchase them. Supermarkets will out grow the trend of using fake farm names as consumers continue to strive to know more about the products they purchase.

Supermarket’s attempt to improve the buyers trust in their products by falsifying their names has finally backfired and created more of a distrust in the supermarket’s products. As time goes on, consumers’ desire to learn more about what they purchase grows forcing supermarkets to be more and more transparent. The discovery of Tesco’s falsified farm names, showcases that we now live in a era where supermarkets can no longer trick their consumers.