Could NZ Ag be the Intel of clean meat?

At its peak Intel was in the top 6 of the world’s most valued brands and installed in over 90% of PCs. It became so strong IBM saw it as a threat to its own brand but then came back only a year later after it lost significant sales to competitors Compaq and Dell.

When clean meat is getting a lot of press and billionaire directors James Cameron and Peter Jackson are getting into plant protein as well, NZ Ag would be foolish to ignore it. So could NZ Ag be the Intel inside, or ingredient brand, of clean meat?

Ingredient branding is defined as: “A symbiotic relationship that provides tangible benefits for both host brand and ingredient brand”. We don’t need to look far for proof of concept: Gore-tex, Lycra, Teflon, Bose, Visa, Dolby, Technicolor, Shimano, Pininfarina and of course Intel have been successfully deployed as ingredient brands helping host brands command a greater premium.

Being an ingredient brand offers many benefits with one the of the best for itself reducing the own need for advertising thus saving many dollars in the process. So the question might be why do we need to tell our own NZ Ag Story if other more capitally cashed-up host brands can tell it for us?

If clean meat becomes ubiquitous like some commentators suggest then many will be looking for differentiation and NZ Ag could play a pivotal role to distinguish it from others using our distinct terroir and provenance.

NZ Ag could help improve the perceived quality of a clean meat host brand, provide an alternative marketing strategy for them, uphold or improve their margins and increase negotiating power in a competitive value chain. A NZ ingredient brand could also create a long lasting impression that convinces people to pay more for a premium product (a la Merino with Icebreaker). Having Shimano gears on your mountain bike or Bose speakers in your European car has meant you’ve paid more for the host brand. 

75% of people said they would more for Intel Inside and after 1 year perusing an ingredient brand strategy Intel was able to lift its world sales by 63%.

Closer to home, the Australian Wool Innovation established the Woolmark logo in 1964 to help promote the Australian wool industry. Its label has become one of the most widely recognised quality seals throughout the world and is seen on over 50 million new products a year. New Zealand is doing its bit too showing the Australians how to market Merino with the likes of Allbirds and Icebreaker playing the value not volume game.

NZ Ag would be wise to embed itself in the plant protein value chain. The same provenance and terroir could equally be applied to legumes and brassicas to help make the unreal real. South Canterbury which is already a big seed exporter could take a greater world stage. As the fresh and newly elected Government and Green Ministers push to encourage and subsidise dairy farmers to convert to other farming systems, plant based protein could be one of those options or at least convert part of dairy land to legume crops.

The biggest threat for NZ Ag will be if eating red meat for some consumers becomes socially unacceptable. Just look at smoking or drink driving. No longer the social norms they once were. A new generation of millennial conscientious consumers are paying closer attention to carbon footprints and animal welfare. And they’re willing to pay more for it. 

Taste, mouthfeel, composition, and structure all seem to be sorted by the white coats. The missing part is the need for a more emotive back story. I’d doubt anyone wants to see images of heme Petri dishes or laboratories in the saw way people don’t want to see inside a meat works. Sure LED vertical farming may look Heston Blumenthal sexy for some but for me it cannot beat the appeal of an outdoor landscape shaped by nature.

Humans have grown up from the land, not from the lab so the intrinsic connection is there. We just need to hardwire it because something that is natural is something we crave in an increasingly unnatural world.

The same ingredients we use to promote our current red meat story on could be applied in the same way - some of the world’s best, most natural outdoor environments with clean pristine crops grown from plentiful rainfall and sunshine by caring stewards of the land in a far away place enveloped in mystery. The juxtaposition of the unreal combined with the real from one of the most natural places on earth is a powerful one. 

The counter argument of course is to keep clear space between “them and us” and instead go hard marketing to the Kings and Queens of the world’s top 1%. And why would an Impossible Burger or Memphis Meats promote the virtues of another brand as its own brand’s cost? The fact is these the plethora of new clean meat brands come on-stream they will require a deeper and more emotive back story and an endorsement or association that others can’t match (aka. branding 1:1). Animal free, lab-based and synthetically produced heme will be become hygiene factors. They will need stronger differentiation to stand out from the crowd and appeal to a specific market segment.

NZ is a powerful brand with strong equity - wine and tourism alone prove this. We’ve always been an outdoor brand defined by our natural landscapes. Those same ingredients many clean meat brands would like to leverage to get an edge on their competitors. This is perhaps where Peter Jackson and James Cameron can see the connection.

NZ Ag must not sleep walk into the exponential change happening around us. We need to move quicker than the pace of change around us. We can play King Canute thinking it won’t affect us but the reality is clean meat is here attracting some of the world’s best and brightest entrepreneurs and we’d be better to go for the ride than defend a status quo position. It’s not too late.

Time we joined the world’s brightest entrepreneurs and took our little big bet to make the
unreal real.