Section 4.5: The Niche Market

Alpaca are renowned for producing the world’s most sustainable luxury fiber. Alpaca Fiber can be eco-friendly, softer than cashmere, and warm as polar bear fleece.

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The Niche Market – Finding our Sweet Spot:

We cannot compete, nor do we want to, with long established competitive fiber models either in demand or supply. We are and will be a niche market for the foreseeable future and beyond. And that is our strength. Our goal is to find and agree on the best qualities of alpaca fiber, breed and manufacture to produce the highest quality possible from those traits. Our industry must concentrate on fineness, strength, consistency, brightness, wick water, hypoallergenic and American and GREEN. This will bring the highest return to you, the alpaca owner.

1. Breed Standard

The breed standard for suri is in place. Now we need to consider, what is the ideal alpaca? What characteristics do we breed for as a livestock industry to produce end products customer’s desire from alpacas?

2. Brand Identity

A brand is a trademark; an icon symbolizing specific products and services and differentiates you from your competitors. Examples of brands are:

  • McDonalds ‘Golden Arches’ icon and ‘You deserve a break today,’ slogan
  • The Coca Cola logo - It's the Real Thing
  • The Nike swoosh icon and the ‘Just Do it,”

Note that as a fiber industry we have no alpaca brand. Initiatives are underway to brand alpacas, but we need to ensure alpaca fiber is branded appropriately so national customers will understand what alpaca fiber represents – natural (Green), durable, American, quality, soft, luxurious and rare. An appropriate logo/icon/slogan needs to be put in place. However, just as a good brand can make an item memorable and promote sales, poor branding can be the million-dollar mistake. Just ask Microsoft. The computer giant paid a hefty sum for the use of the Rolling Stones' 1981 single "Start Me Up" as the promotional song for their new product, Windows 95. Few, if any, could ever link the song to the product. 

3. Industry Information Portal

Who should be the creator and owner of the industry information portal? We need an organization to bear the cost and therefore receive the revenue potential from the creation and operation of an industry portal. Developing and running a portal should be a relatively minor cost for a project of this scale. The owning organization needs to have substantial commitment to engage the level of partnerships required to move fiber into the philosophic forefront. Once the foundation for the infrastructure is in place, they will realize returns from equity positions received from their partners over the long run. How much revenue can we expect from alpaca fiber? Case studies need built, vetted and published.

Many individual initiatives are currently underway to produce revenue. We must come together to profit from the economies of scale – work as a team to share strategies, operating procedures, case studies, best practices, etc.

One critical issue to overcome is the perception that the owning organization will dictate to whom breeders must deal. It needs to be plainly stated that they will act merely as a clearinghouse for connections between breeders and the end product with all those between that add value.

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