Wednesday, October 20, 2021

BMC rejects EU consultants’ reasoning on its product labels

Two years after European consultants pointed out the oddity of the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) using the ECCO brand for packaging both meat for human consumption and pet food, the latter has not taken corrective action the former recommended.

“The use of the same brand name and logo for products marketed for human and animal consumption doesn’t favour the sales and could confuse consumers,” says the beef value chain analysis report that was produced by the consultants on behalf of the Private Sector Development Programme (PSDP) under Business Botswana.

The consultants advised the Commission that in order to avoid such confusion, it should renew the ECCO food brand by way of modern packaging and artwork which would include claims such as “100 % Botswana beef” and “Made in Botswana.” Additionally, a logo of guarantee of quality should be developed.

That was two years ago and BMC has still not heeded such advice. BMC’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Akolang Tombale, doesn’t think that there is need to change the labelling on the two product classes. His own reasoning is that nobody can confuse one for the other because the pictures on the outside are crisp and very different and also because the name (ECCO) is “historical.” Having personally made a presentation to the EU consultants in the course of their study, Tombale has seen the report and taken note of the recommendation that the labelling be changed.

To the assertion that the EU consultants may have a point because some elderly people may not be able to differentiate a tin of ECCO corned beef from that of ECCO pet food, he gives a response that is both vivid and literally closer to home. His own 96-year old mother, Tombale says, can tell the difference between the two products.

“The products are so different that they can’t be confused by anybody, especially those who can’t read because the pictures are very clear and very different,” he says.

Such assertions notwithstanding, Tombale adds that BMC is in the process of rebranding its products. Even then, he notes the primacy of preserving the ECCO name because of its historical importance.

The PSDP report says that “ECCO has struggled to dominate the market due to the presence of more aggressively sold products from South Africa and Namibia sold at parity or even lower prices.” Other than the implied suggestion that BMC should be more aggressive and reconsider its price structure, the report explicitly states that a redo of the ECCO brand itself is long overdue: “The brand has existed for many decades and has not been refreshed. It requires updating.” The rebranding should fully capitalise on all the positive attributes of Botswana beef such that there is “creation of a Botswana beef national brand coupled with claims e.g. quality, sourced from communal farming, antibiotics and hormone-free.” It further recommends a national strategy developed and implemented by the National Strategy Office in collaboration with Botswana Tourism Organisation and the Ministry of Trade and Industry to promote both Botswana and its beef as an export product.

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