Crime writer Dorothy L Sayers knew a thing or two about brands, having started her career in advertising. So when she said “the quality guarantees the brand… [we] do not consider the brand to be the guarantee of quality” it was more than just a whimsical bit of word play.
And the sentiment is thrown into sharp relief by the mounting horsemeat scandal which has now tarnished not only several major retail brands, but a major food manufacturing brand.
This last weekend has seen dire warnings about the consequences for the meat processing industry. Ironically, it appears that family butchers are benefiting from the situation, as consumers believe that they know more about their supply chains that the big processors.
There is no doubt that the supply chain for the Findus products in question is surprisingly complex. Food intended for British consumers by a Swedish company is manufactured in France with an ingredient trail that takes in Cyprus, the Netherlands and Romania. French investigators are reported to believe that the horsemeat originated in Romania.
Environment secretary Owen Paterson met food businesses on Saturday and emerged to suggest that a criminal conspiracy might be involved. Or it could be just gross incompetence. Either way, there are now plans for more and tougher testing – critically with checks being made further down the supply chain.
If Sayers were writing about this situation today, I wonder if she might be tempted to revise her aphorism. It’s the supply chain that guarantees the brand…