ASB Perspective 2025: Moving from the paddock to the restaurant.

24 March 2017 / Published in Tech & Innovation

“When New Zealand says come to our place for dinner, we want to make sure everyone turns up.” – Traci Houpapa, ASB Perspective 2025 panellist.

With the Ministry of Primary Industries setting the lofty goal of doubling exports by 2025, there’s a need for NZ agri-food businesses to adapt to the changing wants of customers around the world, and add greater value to their goods and services. There’s a need for a shift in focus from quantity to quality, to pay attention to global food trends and form greater connections between farm and plate in order to tell our unique NZ food story.

ASB Perspective 2025 is an event held as part of the NZ AgriFood Investment Week, promoting and fostering discussion, collaboration and success for NZ agribusinesses across the board. At this year’s round table discussion, eight highly accomplished female panellists shared insights on where they believe the opportunities and challenges lie for the agri-food industry in NZ with the key question for discussion being “New Zealand 2025: Restaurant to the world?.”

Here’s what we learned from the panel.

What does the world want?

Before deciding what NZ can bring to the global market, there needs to be an understanding of what the market wants. Traditionally NZ has operated on a “make as much as we can, and see who buys it” model and we’re great producers of raw products. While NZ exports around $37 billion in agri-food products, it’s estimated those same products generate an extra 0.25 trillion dollars when sold to consumers globally.[i] To compete on the global stage and own more of this value chain, there is a need to think about global food trends and what it is that consumers want now and also in the future.

People want a deeper connection with what they eat. They want to know the origin, the impact on the environment as well as feel connected on a cultural level. Food is becoming experiential, and NZ has a real opportunity to provide a unique story. New technologies, organisations and structures within the industry provide an opportunity to connect our farms directly to consumers and drive the demand for NZ food. Whether knowing exactly where and when a fish was caught and the sustainability of the fishery, the type of grass and landscape lamb is raised in or the cultural association a product has, the food story needs to be told all the way through the chain to create the most value and demand.

Global trends such as synthetic and cultured meats, alternative proteins (cricket flour!) as well as other innovative solutions to feeding an ever growing global population such as vertical horticulture also can’t be ignored in favour of investment in what we’ve always done. As panellist Traci Houpapa mentioned “if we continue to do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got.” There’s a need for forward thinking investment in these technologies and an understanding of what people want globally to compete and further solidify our place as a food producer of the future. Thinking about what consumers will want tomorrow and setting ourselves up to deliver this is the key.

Many voices, one story.

Is it possible to harness the same energy and passion that ignites the winning spirit for NZ rugby towards being the world’s best producer of food? While that’s an ambitious statement to make, it’s the kind of ambition NZ needs to have in its ability to produce food the world is hungry for. While understanding what we need to produce is important, it’s our unique story that is sold to the world.

Sarah Meikle representing Wellington Culinary Trust mentioned, “We’ve got our story right in terms of our beautiful scenery, in terms of our lovely people, but do we have it right in terms of our food?” To market our products to the world and set them apart, we need to create a coherent and singular story that has buy-in across the board. While chefs around the country and internationally love to tell their version of the story, there’s a need to set the story straight.

Making connections and selling an experience.

As well as producing what we know the global market has a taste for, there’s a need to form deeper connections from the farm all the way to the plate. Creating and telling the story of our food is about developing a two-way relationship between producers and consumers where farmers can tell their story, and consumers can ask questions. Chefs want to deliver authentic experiences and serve food with integrity – something that people are looking for.

Cultural connections are worthy of celebrating, and help to define the uniqueness of NZ food globally. Cultural ties to food are an emerging global trend and it’s been shown that culture resonates strongly in terms of target market and consumers. Identifying what culture looks like for consumers and what our culture in particular looks like is part of defining our food story.

Adding value isn’t an objective, it’s a strategy.

NZ agri-food businesses have the opportunity to become the price makers as farmers move up the value chain and connect with consumers changing wants. While NZ does well at primary production, adding value is the way forward to increase exports and grow the industry. It’s not the objective but a core strategy to grow the wealth of the sector, which in turn will allow it to become more sustainable.

Innovation and investment can both drive success for the sector as it grows. While science is important, as panellist Judy Sise mentions “it’s only support for people doing stuff.” It’s the people watching and deciding to do something that will truly grow the industry and the science and technology is there to support that. Greater investment in creating high value products that the world will want to buy will help NZ reach higher into the chain.

While there’s also a need to continue with business as usual, there needs to be aspiration to adjust and deliver the best possible products for the world. This aspiration was at the core of the Perspective 2025 discussion, and ASB is proud to be supporting these conversations around growing the agrifood sector and New Zealand.

Let us know your opinions, and join the conversation in the comments below.

ASB Perspective 2025 Panellists

  • Lucy Griffiths (Chair)
  • Traci Houpapa
  • Sarah Meikle
  • Julia Jones
  • Dr Claire Massey
  • Jude Sise
  • Jo Finer
  • Suze Redmayne

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