In 2018, the value of products sold was EUR 29.3 billion, thus achieving an increase by 5.5% in relation to 2017. An increase was also recorded in imports – EUR 19.8 billion (2.6% more than in 2017). EU countries are the key regular customers for Polish agri-food products, to which food worth EUR 24.2 billion was exported (82% of the total export value). Polish food exports to third countries was worth EUR 5.2 billion. In the commodity structure of Polish exports, no major changes were recorded. It was led by livestock, meat and meat products (21% of the export value), cereal grain and products (11%), tobacco and tobacco products (11%), milk products (8%), sugar and confectionery (7%), fish and products (7%), vegetables (6%), fruit (5%) and their products.
Polish agricultural institutions continue their measures aimed at diversifying non-EU markets for the export of agri-food products. It is all the more important that the export of food is an essential element that stabilises the domestic market in a situation where the production of food is growing faster than demand.Strong brand as a tool for building competitive advantage
While striving for the development of agri-food exports, more and more attention is paid to a need for coherent communication of the Polish food brand, aimed at enhancing the recognisability of Polish products on foreign markets. This coherence may be achieved by a synergy of actions carried out by all entities, both public and private, involved in the promotion of agri-food products abroad.
This approach derives from an assumption that even the best, in quality terms, product needs support in the form of a well-prepared, coherent and modern promotional and information strategy. Otherwise, it is lost in a multitude of equally good products available on the market nowadays. While building this strategy, we use elements confirming the attractiveness of a product, such as raw materials and innovative technologies used for its production and the quality they guarantee, as well as low prices. However, the awareness of a need to strengthen the brand as a tool to build permanent competitive advantage is growing. A recognisable brand, which often builds emotional ties between the consumer and the product, adds value to the product. The brand is a symbol of everything that the product can offer – a sort of promise given to consumers. Therefore, it is extremely important, in the context of strong market competition, to build a brand as a symbol which is, first and foremost, recognisable and also evokes positive associations.
Product image is one of the key marketing categories. It is affected by a series of conscious and unconscious actions. Its importance is particularly essential in sectors characterised by intense competition, such as the agri-food sector. It is difficult here to build and maintain a positive image, while it is all too easy to destroy it. The loss of confidence in one product may jeopardise the whole industry. What is more, increasing the competitive advantage of products on the market may provoke a counterattack from competitors, aimed at discrediting the product or the brand in the eyes of consumers. The greater the success, the higher the risk of dishonest practices. Thus, it is important to invest, in a much broader sense than strictly financial, in building and strengthening the image, by taking a multifaceted approach with a profound impact on importers and consumers.
Bearing in mind the above, the promotional strategy for Polish food is based, on the one hand, on product attributes and, on the other hand, on the Polish food as a brand. It is due to the still small – in the eyes of foreign operators – number of outstanding brands unequivocally associated with Poland. The main objective of the strategy is to build a strong brand of Polish food under the joint “Poland tastes good” slogan– firmly associated with the country of origin and highlighting the qualities of Polish products.Product under the producer’s label
It seems that if a Polish product is to enter a given foreign market under the producer’s label, it is first necessary to build or strengthen (depending on the market) the image of Polish products as a whole, the brand awareness of Polish food and its attributes. Polish food should be automatically associated with its place of origin and, first and foremost, with a guarantee of safety, naturalness, high quality and taste – i.e. the combination of features which differentiate Polish products against those of many developed European countries.
From the poll carried out in 2013 upon the request of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs among tourists visiting Poland, it turned out that Poland is perceived as a particularly interesting country in culinary terms due to the quality and flavour of its food. The high quality of Polish products is guaranteed by national and EU food standard systems, as well as by one of the world’s best state-of-the-art technology parks. In turn, an original flavour is obtained as a result of using recipes passed down from generation to generation, properly adapted to the tastes and expectations of modern consumers. Building the Polish food brand should focus on these attributes of Polish products, appreciated – most importantly – by foreigners themselves.
Polish agri-food operators, experienced in export, mention that the factors enabling them to sell products under producer’s label include: long-term experience and presence in the industry, knowledge of the brand on the local market, high quality and reputation of products, technological potential of the company, high production capacity, wide range of products, price competitiveness along with presentation of the company during trade fairs. Among the benefits gained from sales under producer’s label, they mention the opportunity to strengthen the brand and company image on a given market and thus the recognisability which opens the path to concluding new contracts. Sales under producer’s label also guarantees long-term and more stable agreements than in the case of sales under the private label, higher margins on products sold, and thus greater profits. Some risks, such as increased liability for the label, were also mentioned. In the face of it, in the case of sales under the private label, the responsibility for the product to a greater extent lies with the importer/customer. This kind of cooperation also gives an opportunity to small/family companies with low market clout, to sell their product under the label of a customer more recognisable on the local market, without generating additional costs related to a need for market recognition, promotion or publicity. However, sales under the private label entails that the producer’s label will not be promoted and recognised on a given market. It also makes it possible for a customer to exchange suppliers easily.
Polish companies are virtually unanimous when it comes to indicating a positive change in the perception of Polish agri-food products on foreign market which has taken place in recent years. They also notice an increase in the recognisability and confidence in Polish food, which improves the possibility of export under producer’s label.Building the brand in practice
In order to harmonise promotional and information measures related to the Polish food brand and make their message more comprehensible, such activities are conducted under the joint “Poland tastes good” slogan. The National Support Centre for Agriculture (KOWR) – the major Polish institution implementing the objectives of the food promotion strategy – uses this slogan while organising the participation of Polish operators in international fairs and trade events. The KOWR carries out its tasks in countries with a high import potential – both those in which Polish food is not present yet or is present to a small extent and those which are well-known to Polish exporters. Studies on the image of Poland and Polish economy, carried out in its major economic partner countries, have indicated that the participation of Polish companies in fairs and trade events is one of the most effective ways to build brand recognisability.
To promote the Polish food brand, we may also use the natural ambassadors of Poland in the world, i.e. the Polish community, as only multifaceted actions are conducive to strengthening the position of the brand on foreign markets.
What is also needed is a greater consolidation of Polish producers involved in export. Effective organisation of exporters will harmonise the sales offer, which for the importer is a guarantee of stability and quality of supplies. Consequently, Polish companies will be able to compete more efficiently with operators from other countries. The “Poland tastes good” slogan may be reinforced by messages specific to individual industries, which will substantiate the reasons why Polish products taste so good. If cooperation between producers improves, the power of the message will be stronger.
The Polish food brand that is well-established through the above-mentioned actions and evokes positive associations opens the door for Polish producers to enter a given market with products under their own label.We invite you to cooperate with the KOWR:
Export Support Department of the KOWR