Hot off the Press: Accreate’s feedback from today’s Agrifood Conference 2014

Caroline Baldwin - 31/01/2014

Today’s Agrifood Conference was not your run of the mill industry conference. An eclectic mix of producers (Dairy Farmers), Food Processers and Financiers gathered together to share their views on the challenges and opportunities facing Ireland’s Agrifood industry. A colourful mix of accents and attire from all over the country listened to thought leaders on sustainability and growth in the sector. CEO’s from some of Ireland’s (and indeed the world’s) largest food ingredients companies rubbed shoulders with dairy farmers large and small from across the island.

Tom Moran, Secretary General, for the Irish Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine opened the conference. He commented on the great positivity around the sector and how it has bucked the recessionary trend in the past years. Throughout the day, some startling statistics were referred to. Not least Mr. Moran’s opening fact that the world’s food requirement is set to increase by 60 to 70% in the next four decades. Aidan Cotter, the Bord Bia CEO, continued by pointing out that by 2050, 80% of the world’s population will live in Asia. So how do we feed the world in a sustainable way?

As with all businesses small or large, carving out a unique selling point is crucial to success. Mr. Cotter highlighted how Bord Bia’s “Origin Green” sustainability programme is designed to do just that for the Irish food industry. He commented that “No other country in the world has committed to a sustainability programme across the national supply chain”. The programme is gaining momentum and Bord Bia will invest €3.5m per annum going forward to promote “Origin Green” internationally.

So why is sustainability so important, apart from the obvious environmental issues? Because customers want it. Large multi national food producers and retailers have themselves created sustainability programmes to deliver to the end consumer. For example brands like Sainsbury’s, McDonalds, Unilever and Nestle have all staked their reputation on real programmes to achieve sustainability in the food supply chain. This means that by guaranteeing the sustainable origin of irish foods, we can differentiate ourselves on the global market.

Jim Bergin, CEO of Glanbia Ingredients Ireland shared some interesting insight into the changes in the dairy supply chain. He commented that there is increasing involvement from the customer and that a total integration with the customer is their aspiration. Ingredients businesses are moving away from a pure supplier role to a joint partner in the food producers’ business. Why? Because the customer wants to stay a lot closer to production to mitigate against food scares and to have confidence in their suppliers’ ability to sustain the supply chain.

Having spoken to members of the management teams from three of Ireland’s largest consumer foods and food ingredients organisations, finding senior talent that is internationally mobile is becoming increasingly challenging. Organisations are engaging executive search services to assist them in developing their international senior talent pipelines with greater frequency.

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