I EAT AND CREATE THIS PRODUCT: THE STORY OF THE CONSUMER BRAND
Eggs will be the next available product in The Consumer Brand line, whereas canned tomatoes were recently made available, and packaged pasta is in the brand’s development stages. If you’re asking yourself what these three products have in common with each other, here’s the answer: these are no-logo food consumer goods. In reality, they do have a brand they fall under, “The Consumer Brand.” The brand was born from a French movement using the rather revolutionary slogan of "Who is the master?" Hardly four years have passed, but the "C'est qui le patron?!" project has already achieved amazing results.
Here’s the background story: 2016 saw a general French crisis in the milk industry thanks to European quotas. Responding to this crisis and the disaster inflicted upon French dairy farmers, Nicolas Chabanne launched the "C'est qui le patron?!" initiative to raise awareness of the discrepancy between fair purchase price to dairy farmers with regards to European quotas. Over 10,000 consumers responded to this battle cry, and gained knowledge about the plight of French dairy famers by accessing information not typically available in the public domain, like costs of raw materials, or incomes of different workers and figures within French dairy production chains. Directly resulting from this battle cry, Consumers’ Milk was born, with sales immediately booming, reaching up to 160 million liters in 3 years.
BEYOND FRANCE, THE CONSUMER’s BRANDS DEVELOPMENT
With four years of activity, The Consumer Brand has established itself in 10 countries, and in 3 continents. In 2019, Italy joined the movement, and is under the general guidance of Enzo Di Rosa, an Italian 4th generation-farmer in his family’s agricultural business pioneer. Di Rosa is considered a leading expert in Italian organic farming, and is now entirely dedicated to The Consumer Brand project, an undertaking that Di Rosa claims is the most sensible agricultural revolution imaginable.
“In the midst of the pandemic," Di Rosa explains, "packs of Consumer Brand pasta - the three best-selling types, spaghetti, fusilli and penne, arrived on the shelves of the Carrefour supermarkets. Coming next will be tomatoes, followed by eggs. But what’s the advantage of these products?
"It's the idea transformed into reality: consumers are active participants in what they buy, and eat. Consumers assert their purchasing power, selecting which products to develop, and according to which rules. By filling out questionnaires, consumers dictate the rules of quality, production techniques in the field and in the factory, remuneration of producers, choice of raw materials, respect for the protection of workers. This information is collected by the movement, and released to our network of producers. Once the data has been fully digested and analyzed, we’re able to work on the indicated regulations and requests, and contact the producers we believe could be interested.”
This is exactly how the process worked with development of the Pasta selections: an Italian overall community of about 6,000 members, at the time of this article, there are approximately 100 official subscribers, requested a product made from 100% Italian durum wheat, using sustainable agriculture and bronze-cut extrusion process. Members also requested recyclable packaging and fair pricing, equivalent to about Euro 1.07 per package. The leader of the pack, meeting these requests, was the Treviso-based pasta factory Sgambaro, who ably met the requirements and was ultimately selected for the project.
Advertising investments and campaigns are not undertaken, relying instead on word-of-mouth publicity from members and social media networks. In fact, the community’s members are given the task of communicating about new products and promoting existing products, pandemic allowing, spreading both the message and the word of The Consumer Brand’s mission.
SOME NUMBERS TO UNDERSTAND THE PROJECT
There’s another concrete result coming out of The Consumer Brand’s efforts: wheat is now remunerated at Euro 400 per tonne, a whopping 35% higher than average market price.
“We have also guaranteed a price block lasting the next 3 years,” continues Di Rosa. “We’ve additionally been able to establish two separate funds: one assisting farms in their conversion to organic produce and production techniques, and the other fund to help families and farmers experiencing economic difficulty. The Consumer Brand receives 5% of product sales, which we need to cover our management costs,” Di Rosa ends.
At the heart of the movement is the need to respect transparency and show exactly what makes The Consumer Brand different. By visiting the Brand’s website, consumers can see for themselves precisely where proceeds are going.
Compared to France, where the movement began, the Italian offering lags behind. The French movement has 35 products available for purchase, with over 9,000 companies participating. Goods have been purchased by over 14 million people, and are available for purchase in 12,000 shops.
"Beyond the Alps,” explains Di Rosa, “The Consumer Brand products are available for purchase in schools, canteens, small shops, and recently in retirement homes for the elderly.
In Italy, for now, availability is limited to the Carrefour supermarket stores. For the future, we’re evaluating the possibility of an European and international product circulation, of a network where different locally-produced regional speciality items can be exchanged.”
“For instance, why not take Italian pasta to Greece, and receive in return from Greek producers their local specialty yoghurts sold with The Consumer Brand label. According to the locals, both options represent goods highlighting the best products in local circulation.”
If you’ve enjoyed following Francesca here, be sure to check out Francesca’s other pieces exclusive to the Mamablip Blog archive. Check out Francesca’s take on where to score 2020’s hottest and sustainable artisanal Panettone - you might want to already get moving on next year’s winter holiday supplies!
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