Monday, March 9, 2009

An English Village, A British Fresh Chicken Brand and Tesco Fresh & Easy's New 'Buxted' Discount Fresh Meat Brand: What Do All Three Have in Common?

Tesco's Fresh & Easy is currently promoting "Buxted" Boneless-Skinless Chicken Breasts for $1.77 pound and Boneless New York Steaks for $3.99 pound in its advertising flier. Both promotional price-points are extremely competitive ones in the three states, California, Nevada and Arizona, where its 115 grocery and fresh foods are located.

When Fresh & Easy Buzz first learned Tesco's Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market was preparing to introduce a new fresh meats store brand named "Buxted" the first two images that resonated in our mind were: 'sounds upscale or high-end, and sounds British.'

The name "Buxted" for a food product brand sounds to our ears and internal brand radar gauge to be upscale-high-end (even a bit stuffy) rather than discount or value-based, which is how Tesco's Fresh & Easy has positioned and priced "Buxted,", as the brand name for its new line of value-priced fresh meat products.

A Fresh & Easy Buzz reader offered a different take recently. She said when she first heard the name "Buxted" she immediately thought of the popular "Buxton" brand of leather wallets and handbags. (We did point out to her that Fresh & Easy is offering fresh beef, like the New York steaks it has on sale in its advertising flier this week, under the "Buxted" fresh meats brand -- and that since both leather wallets and beef steaks do come from the same animal -- there is somewhat of a connection between the two brand names and the respective products offered under the two brands.

We've since done a little research after our first impression of the "Buxted" brand name, asking consumers to name which of the two -- upscale brand or discount brand -- comes immediately to their minds when they hear the brand name "Buxted." So far we've asked 31 consumers; 23 have said "upscale," two said "who cares," four said "they had no idea," and two said "discount." We continue the exercise.

But "Buxted" it is for Tesco's Fresh & Easy when it comes to its value or discount-priced line of fresh meat products, which includes chicken as well as beef.

Since the other thought that came immediately to mind when we heard "Buxted" as the new fresh meat value brand name for Tesco's Fresh & Easy was that 'it sounds British, English,' we went investigating.

And indeed we were correct.

"Buxted" just happens to be the name of a civil Parish (think county if you are an American), as well as the name of a village, Buxted village, in the Parish, which is located in Uckfield, East Sussex, United Kingdom. It's right next door to Coopers Green, and just a stones' throw from Maresfield, as you can see on the map above.

Buxted Parish, of which the village of Buxted is a part, even has its own Web site, which you can view here.

Buxted, which has a storied, and some say important, history, today has about 3,300 residents, according to its Web site. The village and surrounding area is rural and bucolic, the stuff of English countryside drawings and paintings.

Below is how the town council describes Buxted Parish:

"Buxted Parish, which includes Five Ash Down and High Hurstwood is situated in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty between the North and South Downs. The Weald was originally an area of land between two lines of chalk hills called the North and South Downs. Weald is an old English word for "forest" and this area across Kent and Sussex included Ashdown, Tilgate and St. Leonard's forests which remain today. Uckfield and Crowborough are the nearest market towns."

The village of Buxted lies on the A272 roadway from Heathfield to Uckfield road. The name of the village derives from "Bloc Stede," meaning the "stand of beeches" (A beech wood), according to local historians and the village council.

Buxted is a small village (that's the village sign pictured above) with very few local retail shops or services. The main shopping center for residents is in Uckfield, which is just a few miles south.

Historically, Buxted got an occupational and economic boost in 1331 when the export of unwashed wool was prohibited by King Edward III. He encouraged weavers from Flanders to settle in England. They brought their weaving and dying techniques to England, and at Buxted , they produced silk materials.

but a bigger economic bang was to come to Buxted. The cannon making industry in the Weald (think county again) started in 1543 at a furnace on the stream at Hoggets Farm lying to the north between Buxted and Hadlow Down .

The reason for this is because Buxted Parish was a major producer of iron, which the cannons were made out of. Over the following years the area became rich from the iron industry, and the village of Buxted benefited from supplying the forges and furnaces in the area.

but all good things, like the iron industry and cannon-making, come to an end eventually. And such was the case in Buxted. When the iron industry collapsed in the early 1800's the village of Buxted reverted to its rural roots. [You can read a bit more about the history of Buxted here and here.]

But, you are probably asking ...What's the connection between Buxted Parish and the village of Buxted ... and meat -- particularly Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's new "Buxted" brand of discount-priced fresh meats?

Well, it's all about the chicken; "Buxted Chicken" to be precise.

At one time Buxted was super-famous for its chicken processing industry. The British wholesale Buxted Chicken Company had a large chicken processing factory in the village of Buxted, as well as one in nearby Five Ash Down.

Although the Buxted chicken factory closed down in the 1980s, and the site is now owned by the Woodland Trust, the factory in Five Ash Down remains, and the main industry and economic claim to fame in Buxted Parish and the village of Buxted is still the chicken business.

The well-known British "Buxted" brand chicken was the brainchild of Britain's Antony Fisher, who went on to found the Institute of Economic Affairs, a respected think tank and public policy center in the United Kingdom (UK).

'Buxted' brand at Tesco-UK and Tesco Fresh & Easy USA

"Buxted" brand chicken is owned and distributed in the UK by West Bromwich-based 2 Sisters Food Group, which is owned by Boparan Holdings Ltd.

2 Sisters Food Group supplies chicken under the "Buxted" brand, as well as for private label, to Tesco in the UK, which owns and operates El Segundo, California-based Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market in the U.S. states of California, Nevada and Arizona (115 stores at present). 2 Sisters also supplies other major UK supermarket chains like Marks & Spencer and others with "Buxton" brand chicken.
"Buxted" is 2 Sisters' original fresh poultry brand. It later added a second brand, 'The Devonshire Red." The company also does a large volume in private label sales. It's markets other fresh meats and foods along with chicken. [The "Buxted" brand logo above is from the 2 Sisters' Web site.]

"Buxted" is not a discount fresh chicken brand for 2 Sisters in the UK. Rather, it's a "value-added" brand. The company sells private label chicken to Tesco and others that those retailers then use as their store discount or value brands.

Today, 2 Sisters Food Group, which was founded in 1993 and is privately-held, has 13 manufacturing sites in the UK, one in Holland and one in U.S.A. The company says it employees over 5,500 people globally, and that it has annual sales exceeding £650 million (pounds). That's about $830 million U.S. It works closely with Tesco in Thailand, for example.

This is the very same 2 Sisters Food Group that Tesco brought with it in 2007 to the U.S. to be the "in house" procurement and distribution arm for all of the fresh foods (including meats) sold in its combination grocery and fresh foods Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stores. 2 Sisters set up shop in Riverside County, in Southern California, where Tesco's Fresh & Easy distribution center is located. [Suggested reading, August, 2008: UFCW Union Reports Tesco Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market's Prepared Foods Supplier to Labor Board For What it Says is Unfair Firing of Six Employees.]

So you see, Tesco's Fresh & Easy reached back home to the UK to come up with the brand name -- "Buxted" -- of its discount-priced fresh meat line. That's why it sounds British ... because it is.
And, Tesco's Fresh & Easy is using "Buxted" as its discount or value fresh meats (including chicken) brand in the U.S. But as we mentioned above, that's not the positioning of the brand in the UK.

Oops they did it again: 'Buxted,' Fresh & Easy, local marketing and merchandising

It appears to us that by naming its new, value brand of fresh meats after an existing British brand (and a village in England), Tesco's Fresh & Easy has learned nothing from what has been one of its failures to date, in our analysis, which is the turning of a blind eye to the local nature of food and grocery retailing in the U.S.

Why not a brand name for the new fresh meats value line that would resonate in the minds of consumers in California, Nevada and Arizona rather than one imported from the United Kingdom? Perhaps something like "Pacific Pride"? or "Western Value?" Just a thought.

Perhaps it won't matter that the brand, like nearly all of Fresh & Easy's merchandising and marketing, is of British design, which the grocery chain then attempts to stuff into American food retailing, since the focus of the "Buxted" brand is price

But then, if "brand" doesn't matter, why even create a new store brand for the fresh meat line? Just keep the fresh & easy store brand label on the meats (that's the brand on all the other fresh meats sold in the stores) and offer a selection of the items for discount prices on promotion, which is what the retailer is doing with "Buxted" anyway.

Obviously Tesco's Fresh & Easy thinks "brand" matters, even on a line that's focus is discount priced. Why else create a new one?

Therefore, why "Buxted"?

As we said, in our analysis, and in the majority of opinions we've thus far gleaned from the 31 consumers, with more to come, "Buxted" in the first place sounds more upscale or high-end than it does discount or value. (Of course each consumer will be the individual judge of that.)

But the fact the brand name is a British import, and has no brand relevance to America in general and to the Western U.S. specifically, boggles the mind just a slight bit. It reminds us of the very same ethnocentric behavior Tesco Fresh & Easy's senior executives have axhibited from day one.

Of course, we could be wrong. Perhaps brand "Buxted" will do well.

But in the world of brand naming and marketing it's a fact that it helps to create a brand name that has some relevance to the customers it's being targeted to. It's also a fact of food and grocery retailing in the U.S. that taking a local marketing and merchandising focus is a major key to success.

It appears in naming its fresh meats value line "Buxted," Tesco's Fresh & Easy believes both of these marketing and merchandising realities are either wrong or irrelevant.

Thus far this attitude and approach has proven less than successful for the grocer. You just can't force-feed a British food retailing model into U.S. food retailing culture and practice, and fail to take a regional and local approach to private-label product branding and food retailing in general, and expect to do well in America because the nature of food retailing in the U.S. is a regional, sub-regional, sub-sub-regional and local business.

But, the village of Buxted in the UK is a lovely place. That's for sure. Although it's having a tough go economically right now.

And we should add: We hope the "Buxted" brand of value-priced fresh meats is a huge success for Fresh & Easy, both because we want the stores to succeed -- the more competition the better for the entire industry, not to mention keeping the jobs (and adding more) of the great store-level employees who work for the grocery chain -- but also because the value-priced meat line, like the 98-cent produce packs recently introduced by Fresh & Easy, along with some other recent value-based developments, just happen to fit the "value proposition" model we started developing and describing in the Blog over a year ago (and have continued to do), that in our analysis is where Tesco needs to go -- and has been moving towards -- with Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market. [Fresh & Easy Buzz Redux: Much of the Value Proposition-Based Analysis and Suggestions We've Been Offering Now Being Adopted By Tesco's Fresh & Easy.]

But, in terms of "Buxted," when we hear the name or see it on a package of meat, particularly steaks, we just can't get that thought of the "Buxton" leather wallets out of mind.


Anonymous said...

i don't think it matters if it's buxtom or buxted or whatever. it's about value for the f&e customer. they aren't thinking it sounds expensive, when they see the 1.77/lb price that beats all the other retailers out there hands down.

Anonymous said...

I disagree with you completely Anonymous. Even with discount brands, brand is important. If not, why bother? Plus, people associate a brand with price. That's the point of the brand exercise.

I also think people will get confused with the Buxted and the fresh & easy brand, which is on everything else. They will ask: I thought fresh & easy brand meant low price? Why Buxted?

I really don't get the name or the concept of the new store brand just for a few types of fresh meat. I suppose they want to differentiate from fresh & easy brand. But agree that a name that makes more sense to consumers is in order.

Anonymous said...

So my question is: what's the difference between the 'Buxted' meat and the regular F&E meat? Is it JUST the price point? Seems that if 2Sisters is the procurer for ALL of F&E's meats, then why a price difference at all? I haven't been into F&E since the 'Buxted' brand has been out, but if they have F&E beef AND Buxted beef, which are coming from the same supplier, then why would there be a difference in price? Just curious....

Anonymous said...

Anonymous(March 12,10:30 pm)

Our best educated guess is that the reason Tesco Fresh & Easy created "Buxted" (in reply to your question) is because it wanted to create a different brand in terms of its lowest price or discount offering. Not wanting to discount fresh & easy brand perhaps so as to not create an image of it as "the" discount brand.

Part of a marketing rational for this is because once a brand is established as "the lower price point brand", it can be harder (actually near-impossible) to offer it for higher price points in the future.

But in our analysis "Buxted" just isn't the brand name a grocer positioned as a "neighborhood" market in three states in the Western USA should go with.

Consumers might even think the "Buxted" chicken and beef is imported from the UK, which would be bad for sales.

The meat doesn't come from the UK. Rather the U.S. But perception (and misperception) based on a brand name, in this case one imported from the UK ("Buxted"), happens all the time.

That's another reason why regional, local is so key.

You make a great point though. Why indeed? Thanks for your comment.

Andrew Hintz (Chandler, Az) said...

I've only shopped at F&E once but I have paid attention to the weekly ads for quite some time. I finally had to look up 'Buxted,' I incorrectly assumed it had something to do with how the meat was cut (across the bone, steak style, etc). I wonder if this term/label has confused anyone else. If asked whether it brought to mind 'upscale' or 'discount,' I would have to say discount - but that is only due to my lack of knowledge of the British village.

Unknown said...

When I saw Buxted value, I thought of discount, I am wondering about the meat. Is it grain fed or corn fed? Free range? I looked at both websites, and I dont see anything. I did see a few things about the chicken but not the beef. Please tell all