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Who’s the Boss?!

In terms of marketing, I think we’ve all noticed that the agri-food market has gone from a push strategy, where farmers produce foodstuffs that are then offered to consumers, to a pull strategy, where producers are guided by consumers and crops are grown accordingly. Our farmers have taken note of the new rules of the game and are constantly adapting to new consumer trends. However, the pull strategy has never gone as far as the C’est qui le patron?! {Who’s the boss?!} approach making a killing in France. See for yourself. 

2016. In Europe, milk prices collapsed when dairy quotas ended. French dairy producers were on the edge. Then two daring entrepreneurs came up with a system that would allow farmers to make a decent living from their professions while also providing consumers with a little more control over what goes in their plates. They created a brand: C’est qui le patron?! {Who’s the boss?!} They also implement a rather innovative approach where consumers become actual “consum’actors’, in other words conscious consumers. 

Take the case of milk for example; in 2016 it was the first product to be marketed by this brand. According to surveys conducted with all of the dairy industry’s players, the project instigators calculated the effects each production and processing choice had on the final price offered to consumers. Armed with this information, they produced a questionnaire and invited consumers to collaborate online in the creation of specifications that corresponded to their ‘ideal’ milk. Do we want 100% French milk? Do we want grazing cows, and if yes, for how long? What kind of profit margin should we give producers? What kind of packaging do we prefer? And so on, and so on. 

In only ten days, almost 8,000 consumers filled out the online questionnaire. The beauty of it all is that the questionnaire, and everyone who came before the launch of the other products that followed, served as an education. In fact, each preference submitted corresponded to an adjustment in the final price, which could be seen immediately. So, consumers know full well that they can indicate their preferences and confirm their intent to purchase. 

Let’s come back to the issue at hand: milk. With the results of the online questionnaire, they then found dairy farms whose owners were ready to produce based on the proposed specifications, dairy processors who could meet the requirements and the retailers who would place the C’est qui le patron?! products on their store shelves. Consequently, a triparty agreement was concluded with producer, processor and distributor… the whole according to consumer tastes. In the end, milk was finally marketed at a fair price, even with all of the transparency that surrounded the entire process.

The recipe was a resounding success: 30 million litres of milk were sold in the first year alone. People were literally fighting over C’est qui le patron?!. And not a single penny was spent on advertising.

They simply counted on social networks and the pride that comes along with making an ethical purchase.

Several consumers wanted to be more involved and a consumer cooperative was created. The members of this cooperative now have the privilege of visiting producers and making sure specifications are respected. 

Interest has yet to fall. There are now about thirty different products sporting the brand C’est qui le patron?!: butter, eggs, flour, wine, sausages, chicken and much, much more! The cooperative? It now has 10,000 members. Distribution? There are some 12,400 stores on board. What about consumption? Ten million consumers are buying C’est qui le patron?! products, and in doing so they are supporting 3,000 farming families. 

Indeed, when it comes to choosing what’s going into our plates, we know who’s boss. But a boss who is just as concerned as the person who is producing the food… well that’s an enlightened boss! 

Colette Lebel

WHO IS COLETTE LEBEL
Colette is agronomist and director of cooperative affairs at La Coop fédérée. She was the first woman to be appointed as head of training of the boards of director within the cooperative network and works to improve women representativeness within the boards of directors. Dedicated cooperator, Colette had the opportunity to pass on his expertise in several missions abroad both for La Coop and SOCODEVI.

colette.lebel@lacoop.coop

colette.lebel@lacoop.coop

WHO IS COLETTE LEBEL
Colette is agronomist and director of cooperative affairs at La Coop fédérée. She was the first woman to be appointed as head of training of the boards of director within the cooperative network and works to improve women representativeness within the boards of directors. Dedicated cooperator, Colette had the opportunity to pass on his expertise in several missions abroad both for La Coop and SOCODEVI.

colette.lebel@lacoop.coop