Jim Moseley, Red Tractor Assurance chief executive
Exclusive screening: Red Tractor unveils first ever TV campaign to become ‘flagship’ for British food
11/09/2018 - 07:00
Food reassurance scheme Red Tractor held an intimate event in London yesterday (9 September) to outline its agenda in becoming ‘the flagship for British food and farming'.

With its first ever TV campaign launching tomorrow (12 September), the organisation, which was founded in 2000 following numerous food scares, is on a mission to ‘substantially increase the breadth of its regime.’

Accounting 46,000 UK farms as members, Red Tractor sets standards for every stage of the food chain - from farming to transport, processing and packing – and guarantees that products are ‘traceable, safe and farmed with care.’

Now in its 19th year, the national body recognises that consumer demand for responsibly produced food has changed a fair amount since its humble beginnings.

To continue to satisfy and maintain consumer trust, and promote the ‘high standards’ of UK farming and food production, it yesterday announced three key changes for the coming months:

  1. New ‘modular standards’
  2. Increased unannounced inspections
  3. TV advertising campaign

Praising Red Tractor for ensuring the scheme ‘remains relevant and robust, giving confidence to buyers,’ president of the National Famers’ Union (NFU), Minette Batters, said: “We recognise that this new approach to inspections needs to be practical at farm level and we will be working with Red Tractor to ensure that this is the case.  
“Red Tractor continues to be a vital part of the UK food supply chain, and these changes will help further improve customer confidence in the logo.”
Christine Watts, chief communications and market development officer at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, added: “Red Tractor provides an invaluable link from farmers and growers to consumers, giving them confidence that what they are buying is traceable and meets standards on matters like animal welfare and the environment.
“Our farmers produce the safest, highest quality food in the world, and this is underpinned by the most widely used and recognised assurance standard.”

Speaking at the event, Red Tractor chief executive Jim Moseley explained that the new changes are designed to increase confidence in the scheme and make sure standards are ‘in line with scientific advances and consumer demand.’

But what do they mean for the organisation, its members and consumers?

Modular standards

With over 1,100 specific individual standards currently in place, Red Tractor hopes to implement additional modules next year (2019), including enhanced animal welfare, organic and environmentally sustainable production.

Not only will this offer robust farming standards for each and every farming system, but help consumers better understand the products that they are purchasing with ‘simple signposts to traceable, safe and responsibly produced food.’

Batters commented: “Red Tractor’s new modular approach to assurance will give producers a ‘one stop shop’ for their assurance needs and help to reduce the burden placed on them.

“There is also the potential to offer a clear and comprehensive labelling scheme for shoppers.”

And it seems industry bodies agree. Chief executive of Ulster Farmers Union (UFU), Wesley Aston, is of the opinion that “the modular broadening of standards will help address consumer confusion around labelling and reduce the burden on farm businesses.

“Consumer confidence can also be assured in the robustness of the scheme's high standards with the strengthening of the already comprehensive inspection programme to include risk based unannounced inspections.

“We will be engaging with Red Tractor to ensure that this is implemented in a practical manner on farms.”

Increased unannounced inspections

Recognising a lack of trust in Red Tractor because farmers are often well-informed of audits, Moseley hopes plans to up the number of unannounced inspections will “add significantly to the trust consumers place in the way their food has been produced.”

The admittedly ‘tougher’ regime will be implemented in November, with a full roll-out across all farms to take place in 2019. Not only will it increase faith in shoppers, but help Red Tractor ensure all members are adhering to every single standard each and every day - failure to do so risks expulsion from the scheme.

Welcoming the change, Andrew Thornber, Morrisons Market Street and manufacturing trading director, commented: "Red Tractor's new measures - including unannounced visits - should give customers increased confidence about the standard of animal husbandry on British farms and are therefore to be welcomed.

National Sheep Association (NSA) chief executive Phil Stocker agrees but does caution that “sheep farms are regularly run single handed and that unannounced inspections need to be practical and considerate.” 

TV campaign

As its first ever TV campaign, Red Tractor has invested £1.5 million in the production – created by the artists behind the Fantastic Mr Fox – which is designed “to increase shopper understanding of what the Red Tractor logo means and the lengths it goes to to ensure traceable, safe food that is farmed with care.”

Moseley, who is of the belief that if people understand what Red Tractor is, it will make it stronger and more valued, said the TV ad is the first step in spearheading growth.

Funded for by licensees (Red Tractor increased its license fee this year to pay for the TV campaign), Moseley promised that absolutely no cost would be passed on to farmers or growers and that licensees are, essentially, the people who will benefit from it. As consumers trust and understand what the logo stands for more and more, the more – Red Tractor hopes – they will buy into it.

Launching this week (12 September), the TV ad will run for five weeks with a year-long social and print campaign to run alongside it.

Scott Walker, chief executive of NFU Scotland commented: “The launch of the first National TV campaign by Red Tractor is an important step in helping consumers understand what it takes to produce.”

President Batters added: “It will raise the profile and understanding of Red Tractor, farmers and the fantastic job they do producing the nation’s food to high levels of animal welfare and environmental standards.
“Brexit is a game changer for British agriculture and ‘Brand Britain’ must be based on the integrity of robust food assurance. There’s never been a more important time to market and promote great British food and farming, and for us as farmers and growers to reach out to shoppers and encourage them to buy high quality, British produce. 
“The message within these commercials is that Red Tractor food is safe, traceable and farmed with care, and to look out for the Red Tractor label on produce when shopping.

“Research has shown that shoppers are twice as likely to buy Red Tractor labelled produce when they understand the meaning behind the label.”

But as with all things, only time will tell how successful Red Tractor’s efforts are and if the British public will ever be completely satisfied with the quality of food on offer.

With plans beginning to unfold as of now, Moseley said “this is one of the most exciting times in Red Tractor’s 19 year history and (he is) very proud to be leading (it) through these changes.”

But is strengthening the integrity of the scheme, which ultimately lies at the heart of the changes, enough to make Red Tractor the ‘flagship’ for British food and farming? Watch this space...