Tesco may have arguably been the hardest hit of all the retailers in the horsemeat scandal, seeing its market share drop below 30% for the first time in eight years and becoming the butt of endless jokes. However, the supermarket is still the most valuable UK retail brand, worth £7.2bn, according to a new report from US consultancy firm Interbrand.
I do believe the grocers have got off lightly from the horse meat scandal, possibly because there was no underlying public health issue. Others have not been so lucky. Anyone able to recall the Perrier benzene contamination scare in the 90’s? Did Perrier ever recover its market share? Don’t think so…
Anyway, for me, the grocers have somehow managed to downplay the failure within their supply chains and managed to swerve the potential for full scale reputational fall out. If it says “beef” on the product, then quite rightly, consumers should expect beef, and not some other meat, or even traces of other meats. I was appalled that the focus appeared to be shifting towards unrealistic customer expectations at the value end of the market along the lines of “It’s a cheap product, what do you expect? How else do you think we can keep the price so low?” Well, that’s fine Mr Grocer, as long as you label the product correctly!
I was equally concerned when the grocers appeared to be making light of their responsibilities within their own supply chains with claims that they, the grocers, were themselves victims of underhand practice by suppliers. This also doesn’t wash with me for, once the retailer puts their brand on the product, the integrity of the supply chain remains implicit within the brand – just ask any substantial retailer about the lengths they go to to ensure “fair trade” and labour practice claims are substantiated. On this basis, if the grocers have not performed adequate risk assessment and testing within their domestic supply chain, and events appear to indicate that they have not, urgent action is clearly required to address this management weakness.
Hopefully the increased level of testing now being undertaken will repair the trust that has been damaged. But I remain slightly bewildered that the impact does not appear to have been as bad as historic examples might have indicated. Perhaps the UK consumer is more forgiving than we give them credit for!
But overall, the scandal leaves a very bad taste in my mouth, pardon the pun.