Two entrepreneurs are growing a community of consumers passionate about having a say in where their food comes from.
Alumni David Poussier and Pascal Hegglin are the co-founders of The Consumer Brand, an initiative which empowers customers to decide where their food comes from, how it is produced and what price they are willing to pay. After choosing products and completing questionnaires to select product characteristics on the on-line platform, team will negotiate with producers, retailers and processors to bring the products that have been chosen to market.
David and Pascal both studied for a Graduate Diploma in Agriculture at the Royal Agricultural University (RAU), graduating in July 2019. While working together on coursework and bonding over similar values and experiences, they developed their consumer initiative idea. They established The Consumer Brand as a company, and then worked on a website, a communication strategy, product questionnaires and importantly the development of a consumer community.
Through the RAU’s Enterprise and Entrepreneurship Programme, David and Pascal were introduced to Farm491, a leading UK based agritech incubator and innovation space based at the University, which supports entrepreneurs wanting to advance their businesses within the agricultural sector.“It was clear The Consumer Brand would perfectly fit the goals pursued by Farm491,” said David. “They have provided us with the perfect office facilities, allowing us to organise meetings with outsiders, and interact with the extensive Farm491 network, including other businesses with their own stories.”
The duo have already successfully launched their first questionnaire for eggs, which simulates the real cost of food production, and are in the process of preparing three more questionnaires for products including milk, flour and porridge oats. The results of their current egg questionnaire have proven that consumers are giving consideration to principles such as sustainable farming in the UK and a fair price for farmers.“We have also had a lot of interest in our work following promotion in regional and national media, and it is becoming clear that consumers do want to be involved in defining the products they choose,” said Pascal.
With products defined and collectively created by consumers, the goal of The Consumer Brand is to then market the products and make them available to consumers all over the UK. “We can be described as a ‘Fork to Farm’ initiative,” explained David. “By which we believe that from our responsible consumption and commitment to fair trade for farmers, we are contributing to the start of a virtuous circle in the food supply chain.
“Growing issues in the sector cannot be avoided or ignored anymore and preparing future students to understand and face the issues is the beginning to providing the solutions.” David and Pascal are also currently in the process of registering as a Community Interest Company (CICI), which being not-for-profit, will help drive their activities for the benefit of their growing community of consumers. “These include, but are not limited to, the organisation and management of activities that enable members of the public to participate in the creation of food products,” said Pascal. “The CIC will make sure that the consumers’ wishes with regard to the environment, farmer remuneration, and animal welfare are respected.”
Membership to the CIC will be open to everyone for a lifetime fee of just £1: “We encourage everyone to join and to become an active protagonist in the story of positive change,” the pair say.