This is the version of The Apprentice (BBC UK Show) post relating to a Premium Priced Sausage Brand that has one of the highest market prices in its category for a Pork Sausage and one of the lowest meat contents for any category. If you want to read further about the marketing needed to achieve and retain loyalty, price vs value , or discover more on “schism brands” click here , if you want to simply know what connects The Apprentice to a brand of sausages in the “Rip Off Britain” mould then keep on reading.
What would you do if a friend tried to gain from your relationship with them and not share the proceeds with you? How would you react? Would you feel betrayed? Would you be able to trust them again? Would you be tempted to end the relationship feeling they have exploited your willingness to invest emotional in the relationship? Or could you forgive? If you purchase a certain sausage brand you may soon have the chance to find out. And this journey begins with a question:
When is a sausage not really a sausage?
Brands increasingly are trying to occupy the place of a friend. They reach out implying they’re a trusted, reliable and dependable presence in your shopping centre, in your bag, in your home, in your cupboard and in the case of food brands in the stomachs of those you love: Even if they do irritate you from time to time.
Like the last sentence implies they “knowingly” enter your emotional space and make you smile, occasionally laugh and encourage you to sit down together and enjoy each others company. Some of them lean across the table and whisper sweetly into your ear that they love you. And perhaps even nudge you as you indulge in the sensation they offer to tell you that “you’re loving it”.
Now would you still love at brand that charges you a premium price and puts ONLY 42% Pork meat plus 10% fat and combines it with 48% Other stuff in your sausage that you don’t recognise… and subsequently into your friends and family at barbecues?
I guess whether a brand falls off the edge of likeability is the promises made and the expectations they encourage via their advertising. Coca Cola for instance makes abnormal profits but we forgiven them because they deliver a brand and taste experience and remain credible and consistent, so much so that we, like with the radio station, be prepared to wear the T-shirt. But how do we react when there is an uncomfortable feeling price and value is out of kilter ( the marketing and advertising message misleads), and we no longer truly believe that the taste equates to quality ingredients being used, and yet our “friend” consistently makes claims suggesting that both are true?
This brings me to the reason that I mentioned The Apprentice TV show right at the beginning of this post. During the last season the food task was to make sausages. The financially savvy amongst the candidates realised that if they could make it look good, package it well and give it a proposition that consumers could rationally and emotionally engage with the contents would not be given too much scrutiny. This led one of the team to actually researching what the minimum amount of meat had to be for it to be called a sausage. They then proceeded to target that percentage. Meat Pattie just doesn’t have the same ring as sausage does it?
I forgot which team won but I didn’t forget the magic figure. And it is magic if you are a Sci Fi fan, particularly of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where 42 is the meaning of life, the universe and everything and it yet maybe anything but for one particular manufacturer if the consumer catches on.
Yes 42% meat is all that is required for a minced Pork Product encased in a skin to be called a Sausage. Which brings us to the second question (above) which brands is skating on the thin ice?
Excepting the nugget of information gleaned from an episode of “The Apprentice” (i.e. the 42% meat figure) a taste test also alerted us to this brands other substantive ingredients. Namely the 10% Pork fat and interesting under 2% additions to the product, salt, flavourings, stabilisers: diphosphates, guar gum; antioxidants: E300 and E307; preservative: sodium metabisulphate and colour cochineal. And a minimum of 11% water.
Even if the Pork Fat and meat is added together this still only amounts to just 52% Pig in a Pork sausage. If this was a basic product this would still be marginal meat content, as it is advertised and priced as premium it is certainly punching under its weight. So there is a big clue to the brand that is a candidate for “rip-off-Britain” type programmes. The second more oblique clue is that the store brands are only infrequently referred to as anything but store ranges; but less mystery and more fact. Afterall this is not a quiz for the experts but people who buy and invest in these brands and believe their messages. Taking a lead from X-factor: the Pork Sausage brands from the question list that do not have the ingredients in the percentages set out above are:
- Wall’s Sausages 61% Pork cost per 100 gram of meat (cp10ogm) = 82p
- Asda Pork sausages 56% Pork (cp100gm) = 50.5p
- Co-Operative Butchers Choice 74% Pork (cp100gm) = 55p
- Sainsbury’s Butchers Choice Reduced Fat 72% Pork(cp100gm) = 61p
As you can see I have created a new sausage index based on the cost of the “pure” meat and with one exception listed all the brands. So who is the dark star of the show and the winner of the least meat content with the highest price premium………………………
RICHMOND SAUSAGES has a comparative meat cost per 100g (based on a price of £2.09 for 454g pack and 42% meat content) of an astonishing 109p (£1.09).
With just 42% meat content this means Richmond Sausages are 100% more expensive in terms of comparative meat content - than the Co-Operative’s Butchers Choice, the stores standard choice. Which is a recommended by several consumers as Pork Sausage suitable for the barbecue because it doesn’t dissolve and boasts an ethical provenance. Can the Richmond Sausages price premium be justified in any way? It appears not.
The price difference is one thing and the bulking up with water, rusk (wheat) and Pork Fat another. A third element could be the consumer anecdotes of the way they dissolve into a mush on the barbecue, however I think the bulking and the water content probably explain that circumstance as well.
The issue is not simply problems with the contents or the price; but a combination of the two. In a recession to be offering poor value and a high price is not a recipe for success. I believe they are in such danger of a consumer backlash I am elevating them to a high risk schism brand. Their biggest danger comes from the calculated risk of using the power of marketing to mis-direct the consumer about the less than premium fabric of the brand whilst simultaneously seducing them with all the symbols of premium branding.
- The advertising – Imaging suggests family values. One of which is “trust”
- The packaging – The Farm House Symbol, Steam Swoosh
- The advertising strapline “The Taste of home” - Presumably one where frugality is the rule.
- The premium positioning – whilst the price relative to the other brands in the market is not to high – the value for money aspect is completely out of kilter.
Anyone who saw the BBC programme last year on how to extract a premium price will not be surprised by Richmond Sausages branding strategy. By using creative design, and more specifically symbols that the consumer associates with desirable attributes for a meat product, they have managed to conveyed a market positioning suggesting it has authentic farmyard values, offers a wholesome natural product and deflect the consumer . And just to think all this resulted from a task devised by Lord Sugar’s The Apprentice programme and one contestants desire to take the consumer and their satisfaction out of the equation in pursuit of abnormal profit from supplying a product with minimum meat content.: not a very customer focused strategy.
Hopefully the brand under consumer pressure will review its strategy before it’s too late and the schism starts. However for now the conclusion is that The “Apprentice” can be forgiven but the masters (i.e.) professionals must take the “wrap”.