Morrisons Pledges to Not Sell “Faux Farm” Private Brands

The Bradford, England based Morrisons has pledged to support British farmers following a backlash from the National Farmers Union and apparent concerns from shoppers over what the NFU and the press call ‘fake farm’ private brands.

Morrisons has leveraged the manufactured furor to create a smart marketing approach. According to a survey conducted by the retailer, 70% of UK adults said they objected to the use of fake farm brands and only wanted a real place or farm names to be used on packaging and branding.

Tesco came under fire after it launched seven private brands whose names were created to sound like farms across produce and meat, to better compete with Aldi and Lidl.

Morrisons dropped its faux farm based private brand, Hemsley’s which was named after the Yorkshire town of Helmsley, more than a year ago.

The NFU formally complained to National Trading Standards about the move last July.

Despite the uproar, Tesco revealed at its full-year results in April that its Farms brands now feature in 64% of shoppers baskets.

According to Morrisons the brands “can give an impression that food comes from a British farm, market or town when it may, in fact, be imported from overseas.”

Morrisons is instead leveraging its marketing play to host hundreds of real farmers in its stores, with livestock farmers at the butchers, growers in the produce aisles and dairy farmers at the deli. The ‘Meet the Real Farmer’ promotional events, will give farmers the opportunity to explain the benefits of home-grown food to shoppers and boost the retailer’s provenance credentials.

Joe Mannion head of British Livestock at Morrisons, said: “Real farmers have an important role to play in explaining to customers how important real British food is, and how customers can tell whether food is from the UK or not. Supermarket customers are sometimes presented with misleading images of farmers on their food and we believe that by meeting our real farmers, customers will see and value that we know where our food comes from.”

Last month, Morrisons pledged to only sell fresh meat produced from British farms. It has also recently recruited more than 200 new local suppliers from across England, Scotland and Wales as part of its Nation’s Local Foodmakers initiative.

Although the move is undoubtedly a marketing strategic positioning, the need for authenticity is real. Retailers must focus on telling real stories when they create their own brands, anything less is simply a “private label.”

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.