Forget quality. Image is everything!


Unlike cars and shoes, where quality builds a strong brand, food takes the reverse. Yes it’s ridiculous indeed. In a world that has been shifted by fashion and perceptions, it’s not quality, but the image which is key to getting your farm products onto shelves of supermarkets and International food chains. Whether this style of buying has been created by consumers or dictated by suppliers is not the essence here.

Farmers who understand this reverse, but critical concept, that has led to their successes, were present at the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum in Barbados last week to help send a strong message to agribusiness entrepreneurs. The discussion panels on success stories point to the challenge faced by value-chain suppliers in getting their quality and healthy products to large markets. They lament on the floods of health-related problems like Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) associated with goods from countries like China, US and the more developed nations taking over the local retail outlets. Sounds evil enough?

Don’t risk it. Think image!

Forget about quality for now and let’s concentrate on your image, because it has become crystal clear that supply chains and supermarkets care more about image than quality.

If you are going to raise funds or get a bank loan for your production resources such as land, tools, machineries, facilities, extra hands and the operational costs, you don’t want to risk being side-lined. Not because you don’t have quality, but because the image of your product is below the expectations of the buyers who have other competing suppliers too.

So what is image? Image is the size, shape, style, look, colour, feel, and uniqueness. It is about all the perceptions, impressions, built upon by consumerism due to the popular culture, rather than for health. This is why packaged food from China and large overseas supply chains can fill up the local retail stores near you, or ends up at a remote village in Guyana.

Your package

Ok, so you have a farm product, fully packed with all the great ingredients in the world: It’s edible, has great flavour, and proven to be good for health. (Please don’t rush to the supply chain yet).

Instead, bring out the artistic side of you. You need to package it incredibly well. Think about the image descriptions above. Go further, yet inspect a retail shop and see the type of packaging and slogans or messages they print on these products. Retail shops are packed with popular products that have those image attributes – the reason why they are there. Get people with artistic skills to design your idea into visible material.

Yours will be unique, because the product was your own idea, cultivated with passion, time, energy and history. Don’t worry if you don’t have one now. Your packaging style and image will strike you, one day as you are walking down the path to see your neighbour, or while you’re tying your shoelaces one morning to get to work. It will come, just like that.. Rushing through your vein as if you’ve been lifted into mid air. You will give it a name – one that has a catchy impression.

Be careful about names though, as it could mean a totally negative thing to someone on the other side of the world. So you see why a meaningful research gives you a long-lasting effect. You will probably give it a story, saying that it was crafted with all the great passions in the world. Remember, you want your product out in the world. You are seeking empathy!

Striking the deal

Ah! A sigh of relief! Yeah! Go to the buyer already, with confidence! This is called marketing. Show him the package! Demonstrate to him how easy it is to just open the box or whatever material you have used to package the best product in the world. If your believe you’ve got what it takes, children will love it, adults will spend money on it, and the Media would willingly feature it on their commercials.

You’ve just struck the best deal in the world. You are on the right path of Learn-Link-Transform. Now comes the buyers demand. Buyers want timeliness. They want reliable production. They want consistency of supply. They want to trust you! Are you ready? You are on the road to making a brand for your own. It’s good for business; paying back loans and making everyone in your production chain happy. In an era of human perception of shape, size, colour, feel, style and uniqueness, it’s an evil world. But that’s what they want. That’s what a great business is about – the consumer, not you.

Are you ready to launch your product? Follow me as I take you on a learning Journey of the Caribbean Islands in the West Indies to see for ourselves what the farmers are doing to reach markets. Drop me a line, question or comment on the space below, or follow me on the Caribbean-Pacific stories on http://blogs.cta.int

Photo credit: Carole Cholai

Blogpost by Lopez Marac Adams, Social Reporter for the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum 2015. 

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