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Stackyard News Oct 07

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Consumer Insight into Scottish Farmers and Food Producers

Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) has launched an exciting initiative to provide world-class consumer insight to Scotland’s farmers and small food producers, to help them compete more effectively in the market.


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The initiative is being delivered by SAC on behalf of the industry leadership organisation Scotland Food and Drink, with funding support from Scottish Enterprise.

The project will fund a PhD studentship in the dunnhumby Academy of Consumer Research at Kent Business School, University of Kent, where the student will be based for the first six months before moving to Edinburgh for the remaining two and half years of the studentship.

SAC Food Marketing Research team leader, Philip Leat, who is co-ordinator of the initiative in Scotland explains the importance of consumer information for Scotland's agri-food industry.

"In a new post-CAP reform era it’s more apparent to everyone that success largely depends on having a good understanding of your end customers. This is fully recognised and actively encouraged by the Forward Strategy for Scottish Agriculture: Next Steps.

"Scotland’s food and drink industry has a great deal to shout about, but the market is becoming increasingly competitive. So it’s not just about shouting loudly and hoping that someone is interested, it’s about getting the right products and the right messages across to the right people. The dunnhumby data will provide unique insights into consumer preferences and we are really excited about the prospect of working with Scotland Food and Drink to take this information to Scottish farmers and small food producers and helping them to do an even better job.”

Farmers and small food producers will gain access to the dunnhumby data through a series of workshops run in different locations throughout Scotland over the next three years. The first two of these workshops, held in Aberdeen in late September and early October, were fully subscribed. The next workshop in the series is already planned to take place in Aberdeen in January.

The dunnhumby Academy of Consumer Research, which is a partnership between dunnhumby and Kent Business School, University of Kent, was established in April 2005, with a mission to help farmers and small food producers improve their businesses by developing a better understanding of consumer preferences. The Academy currently has ten PhD students, funded by the sector levy boards and regional development agencies, analysing the dunnhumby data5 on behalf of UK farmers and small food producers. The initiative in Scotland is the first of its kind, representing a strategic partnership between the public sector, academia and industry, for the benefit of Scotland’s farmers and small food producers.

Examples of the benefits gained from the analysis undertaken by the Academy to date include:

  • An organic farmer who has gained insight into different segments of consumers who buy different kinds of organic food. This information is helping him develop a business plan for a new market channel, home delivery.
  • A potato farmer who has developed a range of traditional potato varieties which he plans to sell regionally through selected retail channels. Insights into the different types of consumers that purchase regional potatoes have enabled him to put together a marketing plan that specifically targets consumer segments.
  • A cheese co-operative that has used information on the way different shoppers respond to different speciality cheese promotions to prepare their own promotional strategy in defence against competing cheeses from the continent.
  • A soft fruit co-operative that has used the customer data to improve the effectiveness of its marketing and promotional campaigns for raspberries, thereby adding value to their sales skills.
  • A small speciality beef and pig farmer who is building a home delivery business, has gained a better understanding of the profile of shoppers who buy niche meat products so they can target these and expand their business.
  • A grain co-operative that has been considering the development of rapeseed cooking oil used the shopper data to gain insights into the market for speciality cooking oils.

Andrew Fearne is the Director of the dunnhumby Academy of Consumer Research at Kent Business School:

Farmers and small food producers with whom we have engaged to date have benefited hugely from having access to the dunnhumby data. The Academy provides ongoing access to the information and the analytical capacity that very few farmers and small food businesses have. The latter is essential in order to turn information that is fascinating into a practical input for more effective marketing and business planning decisions

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