I was watching the news last week and the debate over the US law on the country of origin for foods. Current only fish is being enforced. Most foods are to have these labels but special interest groups are fighting it. For example, the beef industry wants to have Canadian and Mexican beef called US beef. Most polls show that 90% at the minimum and even one showing 100% of consumers want to have country of origin labels. So this would seem like a no brainer. It is a law, why would any American company want to fight consumer trend? With recent problems with the food coming from China, I as an American brand manager would jump at the idea of plastering “Made in the USA” all over my product!
Over the weekend I did a rather informal study of food labels for country of origin. Most did not list this information. I visited my local supermarket and Costco. To my surprise though, Costco’s Kirkland brand had the highest number of products that did list country of origin for their food products. I looked at frozen vegetables, meats and processed foods and based on all the brands, Kirkland had the highest number that listed this information. I have to admit, I was surprised, happily surprised. It’s nice to see Costco is on the ball with this issue.
I was equally surprised that many brands that claim to be organic, sustainable or otherwise trying to show that they are some how better than mass produced foods, did not list country of origin. This surprised me, if I were a brand manager at one of these companies, I would want to source locally and then advertise it like mad. Especially with the recent scares from China. Some of them used elusive terms like “created in the USA.” Does that mean it was thought up in the USA, made in the USA, processed in the USA? In fact there were a few of these terms out there that eluded to that this was not really an American product but they knew seeing USA on the label would look good. A savvy shopper knows better than to fall for that.
The ever popular, “processed in the US” was on a lot of products. Or my favorite was one company that had American flags all over the package and “proud to be an American brand” on the label, yet “product of China” in really small print! That was rather amusing, I’m not saying who this is, I am actually waiting for them to reply to my emails about that.
Poll after poll says American consumers want country of origin on the label. More than half of the products I looked at did not have this information on the package. For the mass produced items, the consumers of those probably don’t care about country of origin. For a product that speaks of wholesome or pure, good for you, country of origin is just something that should be a part of the packaging. More information makes for informed consumers. If you are sourcing from China and worried about the impact on your bottom line if consumers found out, good idea to find a new source! Perception as anyone in marketing knows is just as important as the facts.
I really do not understand the backlash by some industries to the country of origin. We are talking about putting a line on a packaging, the cost of that is so small it is not even worth worrying about. Informed consumers make informed decisions and end up being long term loyal customers. It’s really simple; country of origin labeling is good for the brand. As long as where you source is in line with your brand. If not, well, then you have a problem.